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PCC's Volunteer Literacy Tutoring program gains national spotlight

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Success by Portland Community College’s Volunteer Literacy Tutoring Program in involving volunteers to supplement the work of paid teachers in English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes has gained the program national attention.

The VLT Program has earned a role in a national project funded by The UPS Foundation and ProLiteracy America, the U.S. program of ProLiteracy Worldwide. During the next 18 months, the Volunteer Literacy Tutoring Program and nine other adult education and literacy programs will share their experiences to create a promising practices guide that will help publicly-funded adult education programs recruit, manage and support volunteers. The guide will be distributed nationally.

“Adult education programs are being asked to serve greater numbers of low-level ESL students than ever before, and they are looking for strategies to help serve those adults who need to learn to understand, speak, read, and write English,” said Peter Waite, executive director of ProLiteracy America.

Waite pointed out that many adults spend months waiting for service and often are placed in large classes where they can’t get the individualized practice they need to help them find and keep a job; communicate with their children’s schools; or do everyday tasks such as shop for groceries, take public transportation, or seek medical assistance.

“Volunteers have long played a key role in adult education through their work with community-based organizations that provide services almost exclusively through volunteers. In addition, programs such as the Volunteer Literacy Tutoring Program at PCC are proving that the combination of paid staff and volunteers working together as a team can make a significant difference in publicly-funded programs,” Waite added.

The Volunteer Literacy Tutoring (VLT) Program has been active at Portland Community College since 1967. It is one of three programs in the Adult Basic Skills Division. The ABE, GED and ESL programs in the division provide classroom instruction while VLT complements and extends the services offered to students.

VLT also partners with community organizations outside the college, serving adults in the greater Portland metropolitan area whose reading or math skills are below an eighth grade level as well as adults working on GED exams. VLT also serves the burgeoning population of adults who need help communicating in English.

ProLiteracy America is the U.S. program of ProLiteracy Worldwide, the world’s largest organization of adult literacy programs. ProLiteracy represents 1,200 local program affiliates in all 50 states and 120 partner programs in 62 developing countries and provides them with the training, technical assistance, materials, and other support they need to provide one-on-one, small group, and classroom instruction in literacy and English as a second language to adults and their families. For more information, please visit

The UPS Foundation develops and champions innovative solutions to social problems. It focuses its support on hunger, literacy, and volunteerism.

Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 88,200 full- and part-time students. For more PCC news, please visit us on the Web at PCC has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area. The PCC district encompasses a 1,500-square-mile area in northwest Oregon and offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »