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BY SUSAN USHER
As rcccnt collcgc graduates with a firm belief in
the value of community service. Rick Kem,
Alicia Peterson and Julie Wallace already had a
lot in common.
As of last month, the trio have even more in common.
That's when they began one-year stints with Volunteers
In Service To America (VISTA), serving with the Bruns
wick County Literacy Council. The council recruits and
trains volunteers to work with adults who want to im
prove their basic reading and writing skills and school
age children who need onc-on-onc help in reading. The
council doesn't charge for its services.
The threesome's assignment for the next 1 1 months is
to help expand the council's work. They help establish
ways to recruit volunteers and students, strengthen the
support system for tutors and their students and increase
public awareness of the council. Their ultimate goal is to
leave the organization stronger next year, closer to be
ing able to operate without the support of VISTA, the
domestic version of the Peace Corps.
"The good thing about this (VISTA) program is that it
is a local grassroots effort, not the federal government
throwing money at a program, but a local community
trying to solve its own problems," said Peterson. "We set
things up and hopefully they will continue after we
leave. The county will be better off. It's not like we're
just tutoring people for a year and then leaving."
During their 1992-93 stint, VISTAs Jennifer Fiellman,
Monica Rathkc and Linda Crothers supported all areas
of the council's work, and it was the not-for-profit
agency's busiest year since its founding more than 10
years ago. According to Coordinator Gladys Wagcn
scil's annual report that activity was fueled by the ener
gy of more than 100 volunteers and a budget of S21 ,000
raised from membership dues, fund-raising events, con
tributions, and support from the United Way and the
Brunswick County Board of Commissioners.
Ninety-two potential volunteers were trained in the
Laubach phonics-based approach in nine free tutor
workshops led by three volunteer trainers.
Ninety-five adults and teen-agers received free, pri
vate tutoring. More than 50 elementary school children
and 60 Head Start preschoolers were served weekly by
BCLC volunteers to encourage a love of reading and to
provide early remediation for reading problems. Pres
entations were made to 25 groups.
For the new VISTAs, 1993-94 promises to be even
busier. "One of our main goals is to get the satellites go
ing stronger so literacy can seep out into the county,"
He is working with leaders of the Little Prong section
of Ash to establish a tutoring program for adulLs and stu
dents, with tutor training set for August.
The Longwood and Ash areas are the latest target
sites for expansion. Because of the county's large land
area and multiple telephone systems, setting up commu
nity "satellite" groups of volunteers boosts participation
and communication within the BCLC. The council
works from an officc provided by its original sponsor,
Brunswick Community Collcgc, at the old BCC campus
So far, two satellite groups are functioning, in the
Southport and Calabash areas, and others arc organizing
in Lcland and in the middle of the county.
The council also wants to reach more school-age chil
dren, not only to help the students avoid a reading prob
lem later in life, but to perhaps reach parents as well.
"I think it is real effective when a child goes home
and wants help reading a book," said Peterson.
Existing school projects to expand on this year in
clude a coloring contest, which gets elementary children
thinking and talking about the value of reading, and a
peer tutoring program for high school students. The
STAFF PHOTO BY SUSAN USHER
VISTA VOLUNTEERS Alicia Peterson, Julie Wallace and Hick Kern expect their enthusiasm and hard work this year to help the Brunswick County
literacy Council reach more children and adults who want to become better readers.
VISTAs also want to develop some activity for middle
Fund-raising events arc among the projects for which
VISTAs help organize and recruit volunteers. The new
VISTA volunteers were off and running their first week
on the job, helping coordinate ? and then work along
with 74 other volunteers ? one of the council's largest
single fundraising-cvcnts of the year, a "bucket shake"
at local erocery stores that drew S2.991.59 in contribu
tions. Other projects include a golf tournament each
summer and an adult spelling bee during National
Literacy Week in September.
Their stint started with an orientation and a two- week
overlap with the outgoing VISTAs to learn about the
BC1.C. Their training will continue throughout the year.
Kern, 22, graduated from James Madison University,
Harrisonburg, Va., with a degree in human communica
tions, focusing on public relations.
"I wasn't sure if I wanted to do something in my ma
jor," said the West Chester, Pa., native. The stint offered
a chance to visit the Southeast and to explore other ca
reer possibilities. His previous volunteer axpericncc was
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He sees readily the value of the literacy council's
"Once people learn how to read they have a lot more
confidence in themselves," said Kern. "It opens people
to more opportunities and to a greater understanding of
the world. It gives them more choices."
Peterson, 22, of Hatlicsburg, Miss., and Wallace, 21,
of Nashville, Tenn., lived next door to each other and
were both political science majors at Millsaps College in
Each knew she wanted to lake a year off from school
and gain some experience through community service
before settling on a career or post graduate study.
Peterson is seriously considering law or graduate school;
Wallacc, community development.
"I've always volunteered, but nothing as prolonged
and in-depth as this will be," said Peterson. "It will be
nice to focus on one thing for a while."
Wallace has done volunteer work with a different or
ganization each school term. This stint, she hopes, will
give her a year "to sec how a grassroots organization op
erates and how it meets its goals."
All three arc cxcitcd about their work with the coun
"I think people who have the opportunity to rcccive
an education should share that opportunity with others,"
said Wallace. "I think everyone should have an opportu
nity to learn to read."
To arrange a program on literacy, to volunteer or to
refer a student, contact the BCLC officc at 754-READ,
P.O. Box 6, Supply, NC 28462.
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