a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stories of inspiration from Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa., – Celia Reynolds and her adult student begin each tutoring session with a mantra, “Reading is power.”

“Once we have that power, we can do anything we want,” the chant continues between Reynolds, a volunteer, and a Mexico-born woman who turned to the Washington County Literacy Council to learn how to better read and speak English.

The power is working, as Elva Sanchez of Houston, Pa., is now studying for her GED, while Reynolds walked away tonight with Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Tutor of the Year Award.

“This is an honor that is too big for one person,” the demure Reynolds, a retired elementary schoolteacher from South Franklin Township, said when she accepted the award from Tutors of Literacy in the Commonwealth.

The group receives money from the state Department of Education to train tutors across Pennsylvania. It selected Reynolds from among 17 candidates for the nod because of her people skills and how she uses them to encourage Sanchez, said Kim Rossman, an administrator for Tutors of Literacy.

Reynolds said the honor is humbling after she heard the stories of nine adults from across Pennsylvania who also received awards Tuesday from the Department of Education for their outstanding achievements in tutoring programs.

“The people I worked with gave me back my self worth,” said Hilda Iris Hampton of Reading, who is pursuing an associate’s degree in business management now that she has a GED with help from one of these programs.

The statistics don’t lie during this recession; the unemployment rate among workers with a college education is half that of those who don’t, said Kathleen Shaw, a deputy secretary of the education department.

“It takes a lot of guts as an adult to stand up and say, ‘I need help,’” added Michael Westover, acting director of ABLE.

(Caption: Kim Rossman presents the award to Celia Reynolds, who is at the side of Amy Manko, executive director of Washington County Literacy Council)

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