June 28, 2017

Meet Sharon Caldwell – The Breeze’s Volunteer of the Month

By Pam Laughlin

Sharon Caldwell has been a volunteer for the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County for nine years.  The Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County (LVSC), located in Bridgewater, NJ, is committed to the promotion of literacy throughout the community by providing student-centered tutoring for adults so that they may function more effectively in their daily lives.

Sharon first heard of this organization about twenty years ago and kept the thought of volunteering in the back of her mind until the timing was right.  She says,  “Although many of the tutors work full-time in addition to volunteering, I waited until I was close to retirement before contacting the organization in 2001 and applying for tutor training.” 

And I bet the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County is glad that she did. Since she first volunteered in 2001 she has provided one-to-one tutoring to six students from six different countries, and assessed over two hundred students.  In 2008, Sharon received the Alma Liotta Award which is given to volunteers who have given extraordinary service to LVSC.

Sharon feels that, “This is such a necessary skill and one which I have always enjoyed.  I thought it would be a very satisfying experience, and it has been.”  Today, Sharon devotes all her volunteer hours to assessments because of the large number of people applying for tutoring.

About ten percent of students were born and educated in the United States, but have significant difficulty reading and/or writing.  The other ninety percent come from all over the world:  South America, Central America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.  The only continent not represented is Antarctica! 

Tutor training focuses on all four literacy skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and concentrates on both Basic Literacy and English for Speakers of Other Languages. The students’ backgrounds are extremely diverse, and it is common for speaking and listening skills to be more problematic than reading and writing skills. T

Sharon is quick to point out that, “I have been enriched by my exposure to so many different cultures through my contact with all of these students, and it has been very satisfying to help them improve their English speaking, listening, reading and writing skills and to help them achieve their dreams of success in the United States. 

Sharon adds, “One of my most rewarding experiences was with the third student I tutored who was able to pass all of the English tests that allowed him to practice medicine in this country, his profession before he immigrated here.  It was also extremely rewarding to have another student become a bilingual radio announcer for a Spanish/English station and for another to report that she could now feel comfortable speaking with her children’s teachers.”

If you would like to be a volunteer for Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County visit their website at www.literacysomerset.org or call the office at 908-725-5430 for more information.  The next tutor training session will begin in early 2011, and there are other types of volunteer opportunities to match various interests.

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