New literacy council director enjoying role
By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post
When Cindy DeLorenzo lived in Fuquay-Varina, she saw a literacy tutor and student working together.
It was something she’d always wanted to do, and when she and husband Lou moved to Salisbury some 13 years ago, she looked up Rowan Literacy Council.
Since February, DeLorenzo, 57, has served as its executive director, replacing longtime director Phyllis Martin.
Despite what lots of folks may think, you do not have to have a teaching background to be a tutor, DeLorenzo says. What you do need is time — enough to meet with a student on a daily basis — and patience.
“All of our tutors develop a relationship with students because it is on a one-on-one basis,” she says. “Not only is it a commitment one day a week, you have to have a plan to know what you’re going to cover.”
What all tutors all seem to have in common, she says, is a love of reading. “They’ve always enjoyed reading and can’t imagine not being able to pick up a book or newspaper and read.”
DeLorenzo has streamlined the tutor training process. Instead of offering training quarterly — because your potential tutors lose interest if they have to wait too long — DeLorenzo trains tutors several at a time, and over a shorter period of time.
She also conducts more frequent student assessments, not only to see where they are when they start, but track how they are progressing, which helps with future grantwriting.
Additionally, new tutors now have mentors, and DeLorenzo has started a conversation class for non-English speaking students, so that they can practice speaking and learning more English.
“Any additional hours we can have them here speaking English helps,” DeLorenzo says, because many students speak their native language at home.
At present, there are about 45 students and 45 tutors — although some new tutors are still waiting to be placed, and some have two or three students.
DeLorenzo typically sees a bump in students and tutors once school starts back, when moms who are tutors — and students — send their children back to school.
“We want to see that bump,” she says.
Besides coordinating students and tutors, training tutors, and writing grants, DeLorenzo makes a lot of community contacts.
“You find you have to keep calling agencies and churches to remind them we’re here,” she says.
It’s also a challenge, she says, to find students who do speak English but who do not know how to read.
“It takes a lot of courage for them to walk through the door,” says DeLorenzo, who relies on referrals of potential students from friends and family members. And a lot of folks just come to the Rowan Public Library main headquarters because they figure there’s a literacy program here.
“It’s wonderful to be here,” DeLorenzo says of her second-floor offices. “It’s free space for us.”
“Cindy has done a remarkable job,” says longtime tutor Char Molrine. “She has a fresh way of looking at the literacy council. She very interested in making a difference.”
The Rowan Literacy Council is a United Way agency, and receives major funding from the Robertson Foundation, the Stanback Foundation and the Salisbury Community Foundation.
“We are very fortunate to have Cindy as our new executive director,” says Melody Moxley, president of the literacy council board. “She brings essential experience and knowledge of RCLC to her job. She is unfailingly enthusiastic, dedicated, effective and creative as we work to reach more of those in Rowan County who can benefit from our services. And we couldn’t do what we do without the United Way.”
DeLorenzo says tutors love it when their students receive job promotions because of increased literacy skills.
“That’s always real exciting to hear,” she says.
Typically, tutors help with reading job applications, various work manuals, driver’s license materials and citizenship tests.
Sherry Vechery, parent educator at Smart Start Rowan, recently became a literacy tutor, and now promotes the program for parents of children involved with Smart Start.
Word-of-mouth, DeLorenzo says, is their most important form of advertising. The annual Scrabble Scamble remains the agency’s largest fundraiser, with this year’s event being the most successful yet.
DeLorenzo and her husband have a grown son and daughter, and two granddaughters. They love to travel, and spend time with the grandchildren. DeLorenzo loves to read but says that these days, she mostly reads work-related material.
“I am enjoying it,” she says of her new role. “The people are wonderful, and the students are tutors are both dedicated.”
Rowan Literacy Council is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and by appointment in the evenings. Tutoring takes place during library hours. For more information, call 704-216-8266.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.
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