My Turn, Donald Doering: Help others at Rowan County Literacy Council
By Donald P. Doering
In the Sunday, March 8, edition of the Salisbury Post there was an opinion piece which reported on an event hosted by the Rowan County Literacy Council (“Broaden horizons by volunteering with Literacy Council”).
The event featured David Knutson, the Community Relations Officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This presentation not only referred to the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen but also touched on the increasing need for volunteers the Literacy Council has in its mission of providing study assistance to immigrants wishing to become citizens.
The Literacy Council provides an ever-expanding scope of services to the Rowan County community — to include adult basic education, English as a second language, U.S. citizenship exam prep, GED prep, as well as youth literacy in partnership with Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Communities in Schools of Rowan County. With only a staff of two, the organization relies heavily on volunteers and community support.
Per the Rowan County Needs Assessment, there are approximately 13,000 persons living in or near Salisbury who speak little to no English. This significantly impacts their ability to find a good job, start a business, get appropriate health care, go grocery shopping or simply navigate everyday life in Rowan County. Immigrants who become naturalized citizens dramatically outpace noncitizen immigrants, earning 50%-70% more than noncitizens. Naturalized immigrants are half as likely to live below the poverty line.
A literate community prospers in every way. Rowan County Literacy Council students who have become U.S. citizens or are in the process of doing so have done some incredible things. One of our students opened her own local roofing business with her husband. One is currently in Army basic training. One just passed her nursing boards. We want people like them to represent our country and our community. We want them to succeed and to be able to contribute to society in their own, unique ways.
While volunteering to share your knowledge with someone else provides that recipient with a direct, lifelong benefit, you as a volunteer will also profit immensely. I can promise you that.
It is a tremendous learning experience and honor to talk with an immigrant in a trusting relationship, hearing of the difficulties they experienced in coming to the U.S., the love they have for this country, their wish to become a citizen and hopes for their children and their futures. Our students are among the hardest working individuals you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
If you can give one and a half to three hours per week and want to go on an adventure you’ll never forget, come join us at the Rowan County Literacy Council. We promise that you have the ability to help others, and we look forward to having you join our incredible team.
Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at (704) 216-8266 or visit its website online at rcliteracy.org.
Donald P. Doering is president of the Rowan County Literacy Council.