Getting connected with TLC

Rachel Porter (left) and Laura Walters (right) talk with the newly hired YouthBuild Case Manager, Latasha Fuller (middle), about publicizing the program. (Staff photo by Molly Smith)


In six months, a 30-year-old man from Florida went from nearly illiterate to reading at a fifth-grade level, all thanks to the Triangle Literacy Council.

This is just one of hundreds of success stories. The Triangle Literacy Council has offices in both Durham and Raleigh, and reaches out in the community to teach literacy skills to people of all ages.

“For the one-on-one tutoring program, we probably have about 600 students a year that we work with,” President and CEO Laura Walters said.

A Variety of Programs

The Triangle Literacy Council doesn’t stop there. Google Fiber funds the Triangle-wide digital literacy program for those who want to learn computer skills.

“We’ll work in nursing homes helping older folks reconnect with family, and getting them on Facebook,” Walters said. “Then we’ll work with some more advanced students on how to use resources on the computer to find a job.”

TLC also has other individualized programs. Students learning English as a second language often earn their citizenship after being involved with the ESL program, and the Juvenile Literacy Center serves youth who may be in trouble with the court system, Walters said.

According to the Triangle Literacy Council website, some of the children in this program are as young as 6 years old. Tutors work with them to improve their reading, writing and math skills. Students also get to run their own blog, which gives them the opportunity to write poetry, comments on current events and personal stories.

“I can relate to Kobe [Bryant], because last year in school my grades were not good. I never gave up. I tried hard, and they did go up. That’s why Kobe inspires me,” one student wrote.

Walters believes there is a deep correlation between literacy level and imprisonment.

“Children and adults with low literacy skills are more likely to commit crimes, use drugs and alcohol, and end up in prison,” she said. “If we can get these kids on the right track, then maybe we can get them into a job, or into college, versus prison.”

YouthBuild

Fortunately, TLC can now further their youth improvement efforts. According to Walters, they were the only organization in the state to be awarded a grant in 2016 from YouthBuild, an international nonprofit. YouthBuild grants allow organizations to provide necessary educational skills and real work experience to high school dropouts in an intensive, nine-month program.

Rachel Porter, TLC’s Director of Educational and Career Initiatives, works to ensure that every graduate of the YouthBuild program will have essential job credentials.

“That’s our measure of success − really getting our participants to not just get the advances in literacy, but also those other skill areas,” she said, “and really deal with the other barriers in the way of self-sufficiency.”

According to TLC’s Bull City YouthBuild page, participants are able to earn up to $1,800 throughout the program, and all graduates receive their own computer. They also have the opportunity to gain leadership experience, health and financial skills, and community connections.

“We’ve already had a lot of people calling, emailing and submitting applications,” Porter said, “so the response already has been really great.”

TLC also receives support from other organizations in the community, including Durham Public Schools, the Department of Public Safety, and even a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Durham.

Education consultants with the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh, responsible for executing nationwide public school laws, are also proud to show support for the implementation of YouthBuild.

“When local community agencies and nonprofits work to support local youth, there can only be positive outcomes,” said Cynthia Dewey, an early learning consultant. “The kids’ families and children benefit, and our community benefits.”

Community Effects

Walters and Porter are optimistic about the new program’s impact on the community, and they strive for similar successes they’ve achieved in the past.

“A student of ours quite a while ago came back recently and got trained, and now she is a tutor herself,” Porter said. “That’s pretty amazing.”

The TLC staff prioritizes the advantages of education in hopes of gaining larger community benefits in Northeast Central Durham. In the end, they say it’s all about the importance of literacy.

“Education is the root of everything,” Walters said. “All the gang violence, the criminal activity, everything that we have in our communities – it all goes back to education.”

Call Triangle Literacy Council’s Durham offices at 919-797-2471, or stop by at 807 E. Main Street, Bldg 4, Suite 100 Durham, NC 27701 to get involved.

Molly Smith is a sophomore at UNC-CH double majoring in English and Journalism. She is serving on the staff of the Durham VOICE as the social media editor.


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