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Companies Provide New Sites for PCC's Volunteer Literacy Program

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Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, Adult and Family Services What do these three organizations have in common? All three had new sites opening last week where volunteer literacy tutors, through Portland Community College, are meeting with students to improve their reading skills.

"This is another step in expanding these services that continue to be needed by the community," said Marie Hermanson, supervisor of PCC’s Volunteer Literacy Tutor program. According to Hermanson, the literacy tutor program has a long history of working with local businesses but that trend has intensified in the last five years. Sometimes the companies only provide a site for tutoring, other times it is their own employees learning through the program.

For example, employees at the Weyerhaeuser Recycling Company in Beaverton will meet with volunteer tutors as part of a two-year $24,000 grant funded by the Office of Community College Services. The project has been facilitated by BRAVO, or Bilingual Reassurance Assistant Volunteer Organization, which assists Hispanics in the Beaverton area. "The difference with this one is that the grant allows us to buy some equipment so we can have more multimedia," said Hermanson. Once the two-year stint is finished, the equipment will continue to be used by the program elsewhere.

The N.W. 23rd and Hoyt Starbucks became that company’s first store in Portland to offer space for tutoring and instructional materials on Nov. 5. They’ve set up a special table and bookshelf for the program. The Macadam Starbucks will follow suit in January and other store managers are interested in setting up a similar arrangement. Starbucks will be giving a 10 percent discount to PCC’s volunteer tutors.

Starbucks employee Gretchen Rowland, who is also a PCC tutor coordinator, approached store manager Tim Cronin about setting aside a table. It also fits in with the goals of The Starbucks Foundation, who joined with Oprah’s Book Club in May to support literacy. Starbucks will donate all net profits from in-store sales of the talk show host’s book club selections to local literacy groups across the country.

The Adult and Family Services office in St. Johns started an instructional program on Nov. 3 using volunteer tutors and the "Crossroads Cafe" video series which can be seen on OPB Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

The ongoing PCC Volunteer Literacy Tutor program, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this year, is free and has open-entry and exit dates for all students. Eight hundred volunteers help 2,000 adults annually at 25 locations throughout the Portland- metro area. Sixty percent of the students are non-native speakers of English, and the other 40 percent seek to improve their lower than eighth grade reading level. One-quarter of all students have not completed high school.

The Volunteer Literacy Tutor Program is always looking for volunteers, noted Hermanson, in part due to a waiting list for all ESL classes at PCC. New volunteer tutors can be trained on Saturdays, Dec. 6 or 13 at PCC’s Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, for volunteers or those needing assistance, call 977-4148.

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