TV Appearance on News 4 New York– December 16, 2013!/on-air/as-seen-on/Answer-the-Call/236132001

John joins the New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund to speak about how the organization has impacted his life.

Goodbye, FLC

Florida Literacy Blog

Some people say they’re not much for goodbyes, and then start saying goodbye. When I left New York, I gave my friends a two-week notice after having known that I would become an AmeriCorps VISTA with FLC for at least two months prior. I guess you could say I’m not one of those people. Instead, I took the time before I left to do things worth remembering and say things worth listening to without falling under the monotony of gonna-miss-yous and the like. I’d like to do that now.

When I first began here at FLC, I was excited to be a part of an organization that provided support to the community-based literacy programs throughout Florida—I had tutored before and considered going into TESOL for a year or so but decided teaching wasn’t for me. While sitting at my desk early in my year of service, I researched and found…

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Comparing Halloween and EL Dia de Los Muertos

Florida Literacy Blog

HalloweenCultural differences are often found to cause misunderstanding between ESOL students and their educators. What’s even more common is for teachers to give lessons based on American holidays, so students better understand our culture. Another activity that literacy practitioners could do with adult literacy and/or ESOL students is provide an comparison of the American holiday Halloween with the Central American holiday El Dia de Los Muertos.

For those of you who don’t know much about the holiday, El Dia de Los Muertos (literally Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 of each year. Although festivities occur in various Central American countries, it is predominantly celebrated in Mexico. It is believed that the spirits of dead loved ones visit their families on this day, but the families choose to celebrate the dead relatives’ lives instead of mourning them.  There’s distinct food, clothing, and traditions similar to our Halloween.


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Why Adult Education and Family Literacy Week Matters

Florida Literacy Blog

AEFL Week 2013Education is the single-most important criterion for predicting a person’s success. Virtually no one would disagree with such a statement. What’s surprising, however, is that many of those who support education often subscribe to the systematic notion that adult education programs are inferior to k-12 schools.

Take government policy in Florida, for example. Florida spent $9,572 per k-12 student in 2010 compared to less than $1,000 per adult student. Clearly, the idea that adult education matters*just not that much*permeates throughout society.

The reason for this supposedhierarchy at least theoretically makes sense. Many people view adult education as a ‘second-chance system,’ which is false yet understandable. People assume adults without their high school diploma weren’t failed, they failed. Thus to support adult education, that is to support the education of adults who have already failed to graduate, would be investing in our most unproductive members of society rather than investing…

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Adult Learners in College Benefit from Prior Learning Assessment

Florida Literacy Blog

When adult learners begin at a college, they often have to manage their schoolwork, jobs and family obligations, to successfully receive their degree. One can imagine this being quite an exhausting task. Fortunately, many colleges have found a way to receive credit for what adult learners already know with prior learning assessment.

Prior learning assessment isn’t available at all colleges. However, it can be especially beneficial to adult learners, who have years more experience than the typical college student. Florida colleges offer several options to receive credit for skills and knowledge which students have gained prior to attending their institutions. One such option is credit by examination where a student may take an exam to either earn college credit or to skip a college course. Florida State College estimates that this method is often “less than half the cost of tuition.”

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is the most…

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Immigration Bill Would Provide Undocumented Immigrants Citizenship

[written on June 27th. intended for Florida Literacy Coalition’s blog, but never published]

With the Senate’s passing of a compromise amendment to its 1,200 page immigration bill, changes to the naturalization and citizenship policy could grant 11 million ‘sin papeles’ (or undocumented immigrants in English) a path to citizenship. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the path to citizenship would take a minimum of 13 years for immigrants to become naturalized, which (if you want to be optimistic) gives the potential citizen ample time to pay for fees and pass background checks to begin the path to citizenship, become fully proficient at the English language, and meet employment and income requirements. Also, the Senate hasn’t yet actually passed the bill to move it to the GOP-controlled House where it could face more opposition.

Documented or not, finally all denizens of the United States could obtain their long-awaited citizenship by waiting just 13 years longer. For an undocumented individual, one may apply for a green card after 10 years and after current visa applications are cleared. Then after 3 years of carrying a green card, an individual could apply for citizenship, according to the bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight’s’ current immigration bill.

The English language requirements in order to be granted citizenship will surely delay the naturalization process for some. Quite frankly, it could be the most challenging of the prerequisites to meet, especially when considering that 70 percent of undocumented immigrants aren’t yet proficient in English. This is where adult education becomes heavily relied upon.

Yet the bill lacks mention of additional English as a Second Language services for individuals seeking language proficiency and citizenship. This puts more pressure on adult education programs already-backlogged with requests for literacy services without providing additional funding for these programs. It’s unclear how these programs, which provide the majority of literacy services to low-income immigrants, are expected to build capacity and manage an influx of new adult learners. Suffice it to say, ingenuity won’t be enough.

If the immigration bill is passed by both Senate and House, undocumented individuals will have their work cut out for them. Unfortunately as of right now, there is no plan to assist immigrants dreaming of obtaining citizenship by providing additional funds or services to adult literacy programs. One could make the case that little will change if this is passed with all that is required of undocumented immigrants. They’d, once again, be alienated.

Partnering with Colleges and Universities Can Benefit Literacy Programs and Students Alike

(originally posted via

Florida’s colleges and university students are an underutilized resource for many community based literacy organizations in need of volunteers.  It’s true that many of these individuals are only available seasonally or during the academic year.  However, this is Florida after all, and that’s also true for many senior volunteers who go north for the summer.   According to the 2011 Volunteering in America report, just 19.1% of the Millennial generation (persons ages 16-28) of Florida volunteered in some capacity in 2010.This untapped demographic can be an invaluable resource for non-profits, especially in hard times.

Colleges and universities look for opportunities to provide their students with real life experiences, and few volunteer opportunities are more fulfilling than working in literacy.  Colleges often have multiple ways for students to be involved in the community, especially for area non-profits.  These may include internships, externships, work study, and community service and service learning opportunities. Sororities, fraternities and student clubs are also a resource for supporting local causes and assisting with group projects.

The key is to be proactive and seek out opportunities to partner with institutions of higher learning. There may be multiple departments in the same university that make such opportunities available.  You may want to start with programs that focus on promoting student leadership and service such as the University of Central Florida’s Office of Experiential Learning or Florida International  University’s Center for Leadership and Service. Be prepared to demonstrate that your organization is able to provide the structure and support needed for students to have a successful experience.   Several Florida literacy organizations have done just that and developed lasting partnerships.


United Methodist Cooperative Ministries in Clearwater, after having participated in a pilot Spanish composition/service learning course, developed a close partnership with Eckerd College.  UMCM was invited to post its volunteer opportunities on Eckerd’s volunteer recruitment website and attended the college’s volunteer and internship fairs. They successfully recruited student volunteers from the fair and networked with professors interested in including UMCM as a volunteer option for students enrolled in a service learning course called Quest for Meaning. Both the Spanish composition course that worked with the Families Learning Together program at UMCM and the Quest for Meaning course taught students valuable skills from their experiences while they received college credit in the process. In turn, UMCM received volunteers that consistently worked 20-40 hours per semester.


Literacy Volunteers of Leon County has developed partnerships with Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University to recruit student volunteers for a few years now. Similar to UMCM, LVLC has worked with aforementioned colleges, which encourage, and often require, students to engage in community service, to recruit ESOL tutors. LVLC has targeted FSU students studying for their TEFL certification whom can apply the volunteer tutoring towards their practical hours. LVLC has also found ESOL tutors in FSU students that are looking to earn a Global Pathways certificate, which prepares students to be global citizens.


Learn to Read of St. Johns County has partnered with Flagler College since 2004. The partnership began when the student-run public relations agency, DOW Advantage, chose Learn to Read as one of its first clients. Since then Learn to Read has had two marketing interns that assist them with planning the organization’s annual Kiss the Pig for Literacy event. These interns design an 8-page insert that covers the candidates of the Kiss the Pig fundraiser, press releases, media alerts, and feature stories, to generate publicity for the event. The students received credits for their internship while DOW Advantage and Learn to Read each benefitted from the partnership. “I feel that our organization has already achieved more than the organization would have been able to achieve on its own in the communications area,” said Learn to Read Executive Director Janet Hutson. “Dow has given Learn to Read a tremendous boost in the community.”


Rasmussen College has sent students to Marion County Literacy Council as support staff since 2004. Rasmussen provides MCLC with two students, paid through the Federal Work Study program, to fulfill the roles of tutor and administrative assistant. In doing so, MCLC saves $20,800 per year in salaries and the total savings have amounted to $166,400 thus far. In addition to the work study program, Rasmussen has allowed MCLC to use its facilities for meetings and tutor trainings.


The Florida Literacy Coalition also has had a long standing partnership with the University of Central Florida in providing interns to support our programs, while gaining relevant work experience.  FLC recently entered into an agreement with Rollins College to provide a work study student to provide administrative support and, because literacy is a priority area for the Federal Work Study Program, there aren’t any matching requirements to cover the student’s hourly wages.

Using ‘The Great Gatsby’ to Teach Your Old Sports

Florida Literacy Blog

the_great_gatsby_trailerSometimes the sight of books can immediately deter adult learners away from learning. However, using other forms of media to supplement the dreaded pile of books can put a learner at ease and clarify difficult to understand concepts which he or she may not entirely grasp from reading a passage. With the recent release of the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic The Great Gatsby, adult literacy tutors might want to revisit this story with their adult learners and incorporate the added luxury of film with their teaching. The new movie might even generate more interest from students than had they only read the novel.

Education seems to work best when learning is contextualized and made relevant for the student.  For many adult learners, continuing their education gives them hope and a chance to improve their lives. In fact, several adult learner essays in FLC’s newly released…

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April Returns as Financial Literacy Month

Florida Literacy Blog

After doing some research on Financial Literacy Month, I’ve concluded that this post may be a week late but it is still quite necessary. There simply isn’t much information out there other than the standard April-is-Financial-Literacy-Month article. That’s a good first step, but often these articles don’t provide any sort of information to improve a reader’s money management skills- just short bits to ‘increase awareness’. If this was a discussion on social media strategies, I’d say that this type of article doesn’t do enough to make the reader get to that next level of involvement; I digress. Without any further advocacy ado, I assure you April is Financial Literacy Month.

Sadly, a majority of us have not been taught how to manage our finances responsibly, which can lead to dangerous financial decisions. It was reported that in 2012, only 13 states required students to take a course on personal finance. Teaching the basics of…

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Keeping Seasonal Volunteers Connected with their Students While they are Away

Originally posted via

Many volunteer based programs face the challenge of how to best serve students when seasonal tutors leave for months out of the year.  While this has been an age old problem for many organizations that rely heavily on retired volunteers, technology may now present some opportunities for students and tutors to continue their instruction from a distance. By informing your volunteers of how to use social media platforms and simple technologies, you can help snowbird tutors remain actively engaged with their students and your organization throughout the year.


For those that are unfamiliar with Prezi, it can best be described an on-line, user-friendly communications tool, similar to Microsoft PowerPoint. You can create presentations, or Prezis, for your adult learners to view on their own or with a tutor while they discuss the material over the phone. Each Prezi is stored online and can be accessed from anywhere, no software downloads required. While simple to use, Prezi has several must-use features. This website allows you to embed images, videos, diagrams and even YouTube videos straight into a presentation. There is also a zoom feature which has many uses. For example, a tutor may want to zoom in on an unknown word and place its definition underneath so that a student better understands the text. The zoom function can help visual learners see a diagram of hard-to-grasp concepts. For more uses of Prezi, check out Thoughts on Using Prezi as a Teaching Tool.

Social Media
Social media platforms can also play a role in distance learning for your tutors and students. Using social media in teaching can create comfort in an informal learning environment. While not all adult learners own a computer, a growing number do and those that don’t have can often obtain access to the internet through their local library. Another benefit of working with social media is that most of these platforms can be accessed from a Smartphone, which have their own capability to assist teaching adult learners. Now that Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in our society, more adult learners now own one. These devices can be used in education through the use of apps, such as those that have been highlighted by past issues. One simple yet effective method of using Smartphones that doesn’t require downloading apps is to practice reading and writing with your adult learners by making conversation through a phone’s texting feature.  If your adult learners don’t have access to a cell phone, you can direct them to the FCC’s Lifeline program which works with carriers to provide free and subsidized cell phones to low income individuals. While this process has been limited to traditional telephone services, there are plans to begin subsidizing broadband services in late 2013.


Twitter is a real-time information network that allows users to post “Tweets” and share information with your followers. It can be used to engage adult learners in conversation to practice reading and writing. Especially for ESOL students, the 140 character limit for tweets can provide some comfort to students who normally are weary of writing complex sentences. If a lesson calls for it, slang, abbreviations, and idioms, can also be used with great success in this platform. It’s also perfect for introducing students to new vocabulary, through a “word of the e-day” activity. Along with these uses, tutors can also post links to resources that students may find helpful.


Facebook provides a great tool for tutors and teachers to engage students by setting up a Facebook group for learners. These groups can be made private, and can be used to keep students updated along with providing resources to them without the tutors having to mail materials to a student. A benefit of Facebook is that users receive notifications any time something has been posted in a group. This is especially beneficial for distance learning, where weekly video calls may suffice. These groups can also be used for discussions and/or writing assignments that tutors may give their adult learners. Recently, Facebook has partnered with the messaging and internet call service known as Skype to provide one-to-one video chatting that tutors and students can use to provide a slightly more personal touch to distance learning. This program can also be downloaded to use without having to create a Facebook account.


Google+ is likely to be one of the best social media platforms in supporting education. With this  platform, you can create a Community for your students, which is basically the equivalent to a  Facebook group in both form and function. Unlike Facebook, Google+ has Hangouts. A Hangout is a video chat that may include up to 9 different users at a time. Within these Hangouts, tutors can access YouTube to watch instructional videos with their students, broadcast what they see on their desktops through the Screenshare program to incorporate technologies such as Prezi into their lessons, and even access Google Drive (formerly Google Documents). The latter is especially useful to explain corrections in the editing process. If nothing else, the fact that students and tutors can see each other’s faces reestablishes the personal connection that is often lost through distance learning.