Literacy volunteers expect busy year

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For the Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County, 2013 promises to be a busy year.
Changes to the General Education Development (GED) test set to take place on Jan. 1, 2014, could mean a spike in Literacy Volunteers’ services as the number of students taking the test increases this year, according to Pat Lurvey, director of training for the Beaufort County organization. In anticipation of greater demand, Lurvey is seeking new tutors to match up with students.
“We’ve got about 20 pairs working right now and it will pick up more during January,” Lurvey said. “We’ve matched up all of our current tutors so we need some more.”
The organization and its volunteers are instrumental to many students enrolled in Beaufort County Community College’s Basic Skills class — a free service to the community — especially to those members seeking a GED. The changes to the GED test looming are increased content knowledge, a shift from a series of five tests to four and an increased cost, in addition to the test being administered solely on computer, requiring test-takers to have sufficient computer skills.
“If ever anyone wants to get their GED, now is the time because it will change and become much more difficult and expensive in 2014,” Lurvey said. “Our adults who don’t do real well (on computers) and are struggling are going to have a double whammy because they will be taking a test on a computer they’re not familiar with and (it will be) a harder test.”
Lurvey, a Washington High School librarian for 28 years, was involved in the Beaufort County chapter of ProLiteracy America from its start in 2001. She said a core group, many of them former educators, was looking for ways to help Beaufort County residents and realized the educationally underserved of the community were some of the parents of Beaufort County schoolchildren. The organization’s first office was the dining room table of founders Jim and Frances Pressley — their home phone number, the Literacy Volunteers line. The organization quickly outgrew its first cubicle in the JobLink building, a trend that’s continued over the last decade and includes the recent hiring of a program manager, Sandra Hughes, as the organizational part of the program became too much for the volunteers to handle, said Lurvey.
While Literacy Volunteers works closely with BCCC, offering additional tutoring for those in need, Lurvey said “we teach whatever to anybody,” a broad claim for which she has many examples: teaching a future truck driver to navigate the commercial driver’s license test and boosting scores for those taking the Armed Services Vocation Aptitude Battery (in which testing at specified levels determines qualification for enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces). Volunteers have taught adults to read the Bible and a grandmother, who had to quit school in the fourth grade, to read Dr. Suess stories to her grandchildren.
Lurvey shared the story of attending one of her student’s naturalization ceremony in Raleigh, a Chinese woman who spoke and wrote no English when the two met five years earlier.
“That was a great day,” Lurvey said.
Literacy Volunteers asks a year’s commitment from new volunteers, starting with a free, 15-hour Tutor Training Workshop. Tutors are then matched with adult students after interviews and testing and the pairs will usually meet once a week for 90 minutes. Sessions are held in a public place, such as the Job Link building or local libraries.
Training dates for new tutors are scheduled January 14, 15, 18, 28 and 29. Pre-registration is needed. For more information call Sandra Hughes at 252-974-1812. Office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.