In the adult education field, we are lucky to have volunteers who are deeply committed to—and find joy in—teaching adults to read, write, speak English, and become active members of their communities.
Why adult literacy? For a cause that is often called society’s “hidden epidemic,” ProLiteracy’s Volunteer page is visited at an outstanding rate by people looking for volunteer opportunities near them. More than 2,000 individuals reached out to ProLiteracy in 2020 seeking information on how to volunteer.
To find out, we randomly chose some of people who had sought out volunteer opportunities through our website and asked what motivated them. Their responses are below.
How did you find the volunteering form on ProLiteracy’s website?
Noah Cress-Hamilton, Highland Village, TX: I had already been searching for ways that I could attempt to volunteer to help teach either GED programs or adult literacy.
Jamie L. Rotante, Yonkers, NY: I've been very interested in pursuing some kind of literacy work, be it volunteer or professional. I was intrigued by ProLiteracy when I found it in a Google search, so I looked through the website to see if there was a get involved or volunteer section.
James Brady, Roanoke, AL: A simple Google search and then a phone call to my public library.
How aware of the adult literacy issue are you?
Noah: Probably not as much as I could be, though I do understand at this point it is much more prolific of an issue then I had previously thought and has ramifications on nearly every aspect of life.
Jamie: I'm aware that it exists, but prior to reading the facts on the ProLiteracy website, I wasn't aware of how it affects family dynamics or health care costs, and that adult education programs are exceeding capacity. These were all very eye-opening figures.
James: Quite aware. I see it everywhere. So-called literate people still do not spell very well or use the correct words in normal conversation. I find myself using words that are beyond most people’s comprehension.
Why do you want to volunteer in adult literacy?
Noah: For all of the time I’ve spent thinking about ethics and how society should be, it is clear to me that I should try to actually attempt to be part of a change that I wish to see and really would love to help people. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, to what extent definitely based on what the work was though, of course, and I also really enjoy and get satisfaction from teaching and helping people reach that “ah haaa” moment. Basically for me, all of this together makes trying to help teach whatever I can to those who need it a match made in heaven.
Jamie: I've long been interested in literacy issues affecting children and young adults, but I realized that it's also important to focus on adults who are struggling. I believe there is no age cutoff when it comes to learning, and it's just as important to focus on struggling adults as it is on children just starting to learn how to read and write.
James: My life goal is to learn something, teach something, and do some good deed every day.
What was your motivation to want to volunteer?
Noah: The huge spark to what actually sent me down researching and attempting to find somewhere to volunteer was this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxMsgVgeu_M&t=953s. That really introduced me to the various aspects and issues that people are facing on a day-to-day basis, and made me really want to be able to help contribute to at least help someone with it.
Jamie: I've been doing volunteer work for the past few years across a number of different causes. I largely work with teenagers, helping them with writing and academics. I think it would be an interesting challenge to try and do this kind of work with adults. As a writer and editor, I'm very interested in the impact of reading and writing, and anything I can do to help others express themselves in those ways is appealing to me.
James: Teaching someone to read would make me feel good about myself.
Have you connected with an adult literacy program yet?
Noah: Unfortunately, at the moment, I haven’t been able to really connect with any program. It seems like the Coronavirus is also creating a lot of issues for those who would normally house and maintain these programs. Hopefully I’ll be able to find something soon.
Jamie: Soon I plan to reach out to my local adult literacy center at the Center for College & Careers in Mount Vernon. I was able to find them thanks to the National Literacy Directory.
James: No I have not. I was told no one is asking for help.
Visit our Volunteer page to find volunteering opportunities near you!
Fun fact: ProLiteracy co-founder Ruth J. Colvin was awarded the top volunteer recognition in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan presented her with the Volunteer Action Award.