On Thursday El Centro Latino for Literacy held its annual Manos Amigas celebration honoring the latest group of Latinos who have conquered the huge burden of being non-literate by learning how to read and write, do simple math, and understand personal financial matters.
For 20+ years, Centro Latino for Literacy has been providing adult functional-literacy instruction to Latinos living in the U.S. More specifically, it serves the two million non-literate and barely literate Latinos who came to the U.S before getting any meaningful education in their home countries.
Centro Latino starts with those who can't read and write, and brings them to the level of Spanish language literacy required to take English-as-a-second-language formal instruction. For students who already read and write, Centro Latino provides math and financial literacy instruction. Students range from teenagers to nonagenarians.
Until 2004, Centro Latino only offered instructor-led classroom courses. Since that year, it has been developing and testing a hugely innovative self-paced, computer-based course called Leamos ("Let's Read") that teaches non-literate Latinos how to read and write in Spanish at the 1st-grade level. Leamos is delivered using a web-connected computer with a pair of headphones and a simple workbook, which lowers the cost per student to less than $100, compared to the more than $1,000 for an instructor-led course. It typically takes 100 hours to complete Leamos, but students can go back and forth at their own pace wherever there is a web-connected computer, like at a library, community center, workplace or home.
The course after Leamos is Listos ("We're Ready"), which provides supplemental language-arts instruction, and math and financial skills. Listos is currently an instructor-led classroom course; the computer-based course is under development
Thursday's Manos Amigas celebration honored the latest 126 graduates of Leamos and Listos, and long-time Centro Latino supporters: Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Ed Morris, executive director of the LAUSD Division of Adult & Career Education; Ben Avila, assistant principal of the Belmont Community Adult School; and Stephanie Brasley and Marian Ruane, respectively the dean of academic affairs and the coordinator of the Bridges to Success program of the Los Angeles Southwest College.
Thoughts from some of the graduating students (translated from their native languages, such as Spanish and K'iche'):
Alberta Corril: Now I help my son with his schoolwork. He tells me 'Wow mami! You really know your stuff. It makes me feel so proud!'
María Ramírez: I'm reading the book for citizenship and I understand it. Besides getting my citizenship, I would like to learn English.
Benito Pérez: What I learned has really helped me at work. My goal is to learn English so I can become a supervisor at the garment factory.
Lucía Ortiz: Now that I can read and write, I can walk into the bank with confidence and do my own transaction.
María Nieto: I am motivated to learn the computer to use in my small business. I want to inform the Latino community about healthy eating habits that reduce the likelihood of disease, like diabetes.