Resolve to Serve Stories: Nashville Adult Literacy Council

Every day, Hands On Nashville’s community partners and volunteer community build stronger communities through service. HON celebrates these partners through Resolve to Serve Stories. We’re inspired by their work, their missions and their dedication – and invite you to get involved.

Imagine not being able to read. Imagine not being able to speak or understand the English language. Imagine not being able to fill out a job application or communicate with your doctor. Imagine never having a chance for a better job or job promotion. Imagine not being able to help your children with their homework or not being able to attend a parent-teacher conference. Imagine having to rely on someone to pay your bills for you because you can’t read them. Imagine the feeling of your children asking for a bedtime story, and you are unable to read to them.

Imagine yourself changing someone’s life.

Last year, the Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC) worked with hundreds of volunteers to help nearly 1,700 adults learn reading, writing, conversational skills and information about U.S. citizenship. Most of the agency’s volunteers do not come from a professional teaching background. Through NALC’s training, individuals become one-on-one tutors who help adults in Nashville become successful, thriving parts of the community.

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Julie Kramer, ELL Specialist at NALC, manages the one-on-one tutoring program for adult immigrants. She draws from her own personal experience as an example of what volunteering for NALC means.

“I worked in the corporate travel industry for 30 years, but wanted to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity that would directly benefit someone,” says Julie. “I never thought of myself as a teacher and never thought I’d be teaching anybody anything, but I decided to get outside of my comfort zone to help someone in the Nashville community. I was pretty unsure of myself in the beginning.”

Julie’s first student was a biology teacher from Egypt, who was working in hotel housekeeping at the time. As the student gained proficiency with his English skills, he became more confident and landed a job in a biology lab. Though Julie met with her student in Antioch, Julie lived in Bellevue and worked near Nashville International Airport.

One in eight Nashville adults is functionally illiterate, and 12 percent of Nashville’s population was born outside of the United States. With more than 100 people on NALC’s waiting list, the need for one-on-one tutors is great, especially in the Antioch and south Nashville areas of the city.

Julie says, “I felt like this was the most rewarding volunteer experience I had ever had, so much so that I decided to change careers to work with adult immigrants who were learning English. I knew I had found my calling right away.” Now, she manages the program.

It wasn’t just Julie’s calling. The entire Nashville Adult Literacy Council staff began their work as volunteer tutors, many after careers in completely different fields.

Consider stepping outside of your neighborhood and meeting someone you would never come in contact with in your everyday life. NALC has trained accountants, IT professionals, college students, FBI investigators, doctors, project managers, waiters, scientists, homemakers, and healthcare workers to help adults learn to read and improve English skills.

Over and over, volunteers state they get more out of the experience than the learners. Participants enjoy the experience while making a huge difference in someone’s life.

The Nashville Adult Literacy Council is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to teaching reading to U.S.-born adults and English skills to adult immigrants. The agency’s vision is for all to learn and for all to help build a community of adults empowered through literacy. Browse all volunteer opportunities with NALC and visit the agency’s website for upcoming volunteer training dates.

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