On March 8th and 9th, 25 students from Howard University spent part of their spring break volunteering with Literacy Delaware staff in their first ever virtual Alternate Spring Break (also known as HUASB).
Since 1994, HUASB has offered service-learning opportunities in marginalized communities around the nation and the world. Reflecting the university’s motto “Truth and Service,” HUASB has been committed to serving communities in need and involving students in meaningful service projects to develop the next generation of servant leaders. In light of the pandemic, student coordinator Naiima Miller sought a worthy organization for a virtual opportunity.
The first morning, the students learned a bit about the adult literacy crisis nationally and in Delaware. “I felt it was critical to their experience that the students have a crash course in adult literacy and Literacy Delaware.” explained Literacy Delaware Executive Director Cindy Shermeyer. Literacy Delaware is in the business of changing lives through the impact of literacy. Over 192,000 Delaware adults read at or below the 3rd grade. The pandemic has illuminated the struggles non-English speaking adults and their families face navigating in a virtual world. Literacy is the great equalizer, a key determinant in all the social challenges we face today. Armed with this new knowledge, the students turned to writing letters to Delaware and national legislators to raise awareness of Literacy Delaware’s work and explain the importance of literacy.
The students’ sentiments about the importance of strong literacy skills were earnest and powerful.
“My parents instilled (strong language skills) in me and I continued to use them as they advocated for me to go to the best schools throughout my academic career. They used them to show me how to be compassionate to people and non-judgmental. I am using them right now to be able to help Literacy Delaware earn the funding that they need and deserve. Their students want to learn English because they want to succeed in this country.”
“I decided to volunteer and help raise awareness for Literacy Delaware because literacy skills are needed in every aspect of our lives from the day that we learn to speak. For myself, understanding and being educated in literacy has allowed me to help many communities through means such as this letter. It has also helped me succeed in school, reach my academic goals, and begin to search for the tools to achieve my future dreams.”
“As the child of an immigrant, I understand the struggles that many families face. Some are not fortunate enough to have multiple family members in the country to help them acclimate to the foreign atmosphere. Programs like this are so necessary for the people who have no one in their corner.”
On the second morning HUASB volunteers learned about how the Literacy Delaware program works as well as virtually meeting a few of Literacy Delaware’s amazing volunteers and learners.” Again, I felt it important for HUASB students to meet and hear from those involved in our program.” said Shermeyer. One HUASB student remarked that it was a “humbling” experience meeting and listening to the tutors and learners. The students were then engaged in writing letters of encouragement to learners.
Literacy Delaware is grateful for these Howard University students sharing their time and talents with us during their spring break. We wish them all the best in the future and look forward to working with them in person next year!