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L-I-T-E-R-A-C-Y

by Ariela Martin | May 1, 2013 9:34 am

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With 30 percent of adults lacking fundamental reading and writing skills in New Haven, Scrabble may just be one remedy.

“That’s a lot of people. That’s 200,000 people,” said Janet Ryan, past president of Literacy Volunteers, and who’s been on the not-for-profit organization’s board since 2003. “I wanted to make this particular event something that would infuse the budget because everything we do goes straight to the programing and students that need it most.”

She spoke as the organization held its 15th annual Scrabble tournament last Thursday evening. Over 175 people joined in Gateway’s Community Room. Teams were split up into three categories: corporate, student, and friends and family. Prizes were given to teams within the category who earned the highest points at the end.

In 15 years, Literacy Volunteer’s Annual Scrabble Tournament has continued to grow into its “signature fundraiser”, said Executive Director Doss Venema (pictured above). “People have a great time!”

According to Venema, the mission of Literacy Volunteers is to “train volunteers to tutor adults in the community who are having trouble with reading and writing. Many of the adults are reading a third grade level and are trying to improve. Others have just arrived from an other country, and are having trouble learning to speak English, so we do a lot of conversation classes as well.”

Ariela Martin Photo

Kristen Cusato (pictured), former co-anchor of Good Morning Connecticut, served as emcee.

Vincent Jones, in his third semester at Gateway Community College, gets help from Literacy Volunteers. “I’m glad that they’re there for me ,and I had the courage to walk through those doors,” Jones said. “I didn’t have the learning capability when I was growing up, and there were a lot of things lacking.”

Dita Varleta has been Jones’s tutor for the four years he’s been with Literacy Volunteers. The two meet once a week. “I’ve been so fortunate to have Vincent as my student. He’s made tremendous progress,” Varleta said. “He caught on so quickly, he’s such a bright man. He’s been able to make so many leaps and strides to come this far. It’s a very rewarding experience for me. It’s just amazing to see his progress and to see how quickly he picks up on things.”

Ariela Martin, an Independent contributing reporter, attends Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School.

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