Doing it by the numbers

Seble Men­kir’s math skills make her a val­ued vo­lun­teer and tu­tor for the city’s Cen­ter for Lit­er­acy.

CFL Vo­lun­teer Seble Men­kir Tu­tors Ger­ald A. Doughterty


Read­ing is something many of us take for gran­ted. We learned to read when we were kids. That was so long ago that we don’t think of it as a skill we had to ac­quire — and maybe struggled with.

The truth is there are people for whom read­ing a news­pa­per art­icle like this one is a chal­lenge, or even im­possible.

Those are the people vo­lun­teer tu­tor Seble Men­kir is try­ing to help.

The North­east res­id­ent works with Phil­adelphia’s Cen­ter for Lit­er­acy, a non-profit group ded­ic­ated to help­ing adults mas­ter ba­sic read­ing, writ­ing, math and com­puter skills.

The cen­ter needs more vo­lun­teers like Men­kir.

“Know­ing that the stu­dents I help will soon earn their GED high school equi­val­ency dip­loma is a really re­ward­ing feel­ing,” said Men­kir, who works on math skills with sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion learners.  “It also makes me feel good, shar­ing my ad­vanced math skills with people who will ap­pre­ci­ate the know­ledge.”

The cen­ter, es­tab­lished in 1968, de­pends on vo­lun­teers to tu­tor thou­sands of Phil­adelphi­ans who re­quest lit­er­acy sup­port.

Tu­tors get nine hours of train­ing, pro­fes­sion­al de­vel­op­ment, on­go­ing su­per­vi­sion and pro­fes­sion­al sup­port.  Tu­tors are asked to make a six-month com­mit­ment to work in small groups with adults. Al­though no cer­ti­fic­a­tion is needed, a bach­el­or’s de­gree or en­roll­ment in a four-year de­gree pro­gram is re­quired.

“We con­nect our vo­lun­teers with adults who have a strong de­sire to learn,” said JoAnn Wein­ber­ger, the cen­ter’s pres­id­ent and ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or. ldquo;Many were born abroad.  Oth­ers need the ba­sic skills they did not mas­ter in school or to study for the GED, which is the high school equi­val­ency dip­loma. Our learners are com­mit­ted to their own suc­cess and treas­ure the change that learn­ing makes in their lives.”

Fifty per­cent of the city’s adults need to in­crease their lit­er­acy skills for today’s work force and today’s eco­nomy, Wein­ber­ger said in a phone in­ter­view.

“That doesn’t mean they can’t read at all,” she said. “But their skills are not at a high enough level for today’s re­quire­ments.”

Ori­ent­a­tion ses­sions for pro­spect­ive vo­lun­teers are held throughout the year; up­com­ing open­ings are lis­ted on the ori­ent­a­tion sched­ule pos­ted at the cen­ter’s Web site:­for­l­it­er­ These work­shops are free and open to the pub­lic. Ad­vance re­gis­tra­tion is re­quired.

Thou­sands of adult learners are tutored every year, at no cost to the stu­dent, with pro­grams in read­ing, writ­ing, math and read­i­ness-to-work skills and Eng­lish as a Second Lan­guage.

Fur­ther in­form­a­tion for sup­port­ers, vo­lun­teers and stu­dents seek­ing ser­vices is avail­able at­for­l­it­er­ or by call­ing 215-474-1235.


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