The nonprofit relies on 170 volunteer teachers
Teri Walker of Oak Cliff started working at the Aberg Center for Literacy four years ago, and since then she has recruited dozens of our neighbors to be volunteers at the center.
“The thing that really drives this program are the people who are willing to get involved,” Walker says.
Hundreds of students come through the Aberg Center for Literacy at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Ross Avenue every year. Most of them are learning English or preparing for a GED exam. The classes are free and include childcare.
The organization relies on two things to offer its services: individual donations and volunteers. One of those volunteers is Ron Durham of Oak Cliff. He started filling in for another teacher in 2009, and he was reluctant at first.
“I had never really taught, so I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be qualified to teach,” he says. He taught a conversation class at Walker’s urging, and he found it was easy and fun. Teaching is a learning experience, Durham says.
“My students come from several countries — Korea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico,” he says. “So I learn about their backgrounds and culture and about them as individuals.”
Volunteer Genny Rowley says she enjoys learning about her students’ cultures as well.
“It’s a conversation class, and we just talk about things that are going on in their lives, or we look through the newspaper and talk about things going on in the world,” she says.
Most volunteers at the center give similar testimony: It’s inspiring to be part of something so meaningful in other people’s lives. All of the students are there to make life better for themselves and their families.
“These students are so consistent and really determined,” Rowley says.
The center recently added childcare for students, and it’s not just babysitting. Childcare professionals come up with curriculum for the little ones. It costs about $1,200 per year, including childcare, to educate one student, Walker says. To help raise money, the center is adding a 10-week Spanish class taught by instructors from Richland College. The class costs $120 and will meet on Monday nights starting in January.
“So we’ll have students who are learning English and students who are learning Spanish all in the same place,” Walker says.
• For information on volunteering, or to enroll in Spanish classes, contact abergcenter.org or 214.826.6501.