Literacy Council announces four new volunteers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 3, 2020

Staff report

Making good use of their time during the shelter-in-place order, several new volunteers recently completed training to become Rowan County Literacy Council tutors. Tom Pickett, Steve Combs, and Cathy Ryerson completed training during the lockdown, and Shally Mendez completed her training shortly before the lockdown was announced. All four completed an online training program from home and are now certified to work with Adult Basic Education or English as a Second Language students.

Pickett, Combs, and Ryerson are retirees who decided to volunteer after reading an editorial in the Salisbury Post about the literacy council’s work with citizenship candidates. Mendez is a fourth-year student at Catawba College who plans to attend law school after graduation.

Pickett wanted to “help someone learn how to decipher the letters on a page into words, giving them a skill that no one can take away from them and letting them into the wonderful world of the written language.”

Combs was also interested in helping people in the community, noting, “When I stop to think about it, my greatest, life-long enjoyment has come from the experience of reading. Tutoring is a way of joining together with another person in the worthwhile pursuit of spreading the joy.”

Although many people are currently staying home in compliance with guidelines on social distancing, Rowan County Literacy Council Program Coordinator Laurel Harry noted that it is still a good time to think about volunteering. “We transitioned to online training for volunteers a few years ago, and in 2020 rolled out a streamlined training program that volunteers can complete from home in about three hours. We can do orientation over the phone and background checks are done online. The entire process can be done remotely,” she said. In person tutoring is currently suspended, but when possible, tutors are meeting with students by phone, or using videoconference tools such as Zoom. Most students have smartphones they can use to stay in touch, and the literacy council has loaner laptops that can be checked out by students and tutors. Once restrictions are lifted, Harry hopes to have even more new tutors ready to go, saying “If it’s a choice between three hours of tutor training or three hours of Netflix, the choice is pretty clear. We need you and you’ll feel good about it.”   

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a literacy volunteer, visit or email to get started.