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Community News: Southwest

CRENSHAW : Tutors Hone Skills to Build Better Lives

February 07, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

After the riots last spring, Gwen Thomas was eager to participate in rebuilding Los Angeles.

But she was wasn't interested in building structures. She was interested in building knowledge.

"Our church members got together and discussed what problems really needed addressing, and literacy was one of them," said Thomas, who coordinates 86 volunteer tutors at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. "We were looking for a way to aid the community and also fill a need. A literacy program was perfect."

Thomas contacted the Los Angeles Adult Reading Project, a literacy program started in 1984 by the Los Angeles Public Library. Her initial group of eight volunteers has burgeoned to a corps of 60 tutors who have completed the training needed for certificates. Forty-five are assigned to work one-on-one with students.

Though the tutors are all members of the West Angeles Church, they volunteer wherever they are needed, including libraries and reading centers in the Baldwin Hills, Exposition Park and Watts areas.

The Los Angeles Adult Reading Project has 600 trained tutors who work throughout the city. A roving staff provides 12 hours of training and instructional materials for tutors, who meet with students in twice-weekly, 1 1/2-hour lessons for six months to a year, depending on a student's goals and needs.

"The program is tailored to fit the student," said Thomas, an instructor at West Los Angeles College. "If they want to learn to fill out job applications, that's what we teach them."

Gary Duffey, who is in his 30s, joined the program last fall to improve his pronunciation and comprehension.

"I could read, but not too well," said Duffey, who is unemployed. "But since I started with my tutor in November, I've really improved. For somebody to take out their time like this is great."

Duffey's tutor, Naomi Buckins, said Duffey's first goal is to write a letter. "He's making a lot of progress," Buckins said. "His wife will be very proud of him."

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