Formed in 1983 from a number of local affiliates, Literacy Solutions NY (Formerly Literacy Volunteers of Westchester & Rockland, Inc.) is the largest affiliate of Literacy New York. which has 36 affiliates across the State.
Literacy Solutions NY Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing student-centered English literacy services and acting as a resource for the advancement of literacy.
Like other parts of the greater New York Metropolitan area, Westchester and Rockland Counties have experienced an enormous increase in the number of non-English speaking adult residents over the last 20 years. An article in the Gannett Journal News, which serves a three-county region, noted an increasing number of Quechua speakers in the region, for whom Spanish is a second language. Haitian-Creole speakers constitute another growing target group. In our pre-tests of area adults in need, Literacy Solutions NY, Inc. finds significant numbers of people with poor literacy skills in their home languages.
LSNY’s community partnerships insure that adult students, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or geographic location, are served. LSNY recruits students and volunteers in compliance with all federal statutes relating to nondiscrimination.
LSNY has a long history of serving the “hardest to reach and hardest to teach.” LSNY receives referrals from educational and human service organizations in both counties. These providers recognize our commitment and ability to serve low literate adults and adults with multiple literacy-related problems.
LSNY offers free one-to-one tutoring and classroom-based instruction in Basic Literacy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to 500-700 Westchester and Rockland students annually, through a network of more than 150 volunteer tutors and 20 professional instructors.
LSNY offers intermediate ESOL and citizenship preparation classes in cooperation with local libraries, churches and community centers, as well as customized, on-site vocational ESOL classes in partnership with local employers.
Literacy Solutions’ “Haverstraw Literacy Zone Family Welcome Center” in Rockland County, located at the Haverstraw Center in the Village, is one of 51 Literacy Zones throughout New York State. Literacy Zones represent a new model of service delivery for adult education. Along with traditional services, a Literacy Zone has at its heart social work case management services. LSNY’s Lead Case Manager provides direct assistance and supports other staff to provide help to students with shelter issues, hunger, domestic violence and substance abuse, all of which pose barriers to learning.
LSNY has many formal partners in the success of the project. These stakeholders include:
Haverstraw Center & Haverstraw Collaborative
Catholic Charities Community Services
County of Rockland Department of Social Services
Head Start of Rockland
Haverstraw King’s Daughters Library
North Rockland Central School District
Rockland Community College
Rockland County Career Center
Workforce Development Board of Rockland County
Rockland County YMCA
The Office for New Americans
The Office for New Americans (ONA) is a New York State Department of State initiative established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Currently, there are 27 ONA sites state-wide. The level of immigrant population determines the need for and location of ONA sites. ONA is designed to help recent arrivals become acclimated to their new home, assist them in navigating life in a new county, and help qualified immigrants begin the journey to American citizenship if they so desire.
ONA offers a wide array of services including ESOL classes, citizenship drives, seminars and classes, entrepreneurial workshops, community presentations, legal assistance, and trips to local cultural and historical sites. This program differs from our ESOL classes and mandates the following activities and services:
- ONA is a 12 month program, operating on a calendar year basis;
- It requires that we serve 60 students per quarter in quarters 1, 2 and 4, and 40 students in quarter 3 (total of 200 students per year);
- During each quarter, students must receive a total of 100 hours of service, 60 classroom hours, and 40 additional hours achieved through journal writing, conversation groups and other approved non-classroom ESOL activities;
- 75% of all enrolled students must document 100 hours of service each quarter;
- Over enrollment will not be permitted to insure that we achieve the mandated percentage of students reaching 100 hours of documented service hours; i.e. the higher the number registered, the higher the number needed to comply with program regulations;
- All students must be pre and post tested to determine their level of English literacy;
- Student registration must be completed by the second week of the quarter, no changes are permitted to the roster after that time;
- Trips to sites of cultural and historic importance will be conducted;
- One legal services consultation day will be held each month;
- Two citizenship drives will be held annually;
- 125 naturalization applications will be submitted annually;
- Volunteers will be recruited to assist with application completion and reviewed by legal counsel;
- Three staff members will successfully complete BIA training;
- Community, and entrepreneurial workshops will be hosted;
- Student recruitment conducted throughout the county.
U.S. Civics for Immigrants
In addition to improving their English literacy skills, recent immigrants need to understand American civics and society to become more productive and successful members of our communities. LSNY created a powerful tool to address this need: a classroom curriculum called U.S. Civics for Immigrants: From Native Language to English Literacy (USCFI), which was developed with a four-year, $1.2 million dollar federal grant through the New York State Education Department.
The curriculum specifically targets non-English speakers who may have low literacy in their home languages. Written entirely in English, the curriculum is used with students who share the same home language, and requires either a bi-lingual ESOL teacher or a teaching assistant.
USCFI stresses real-life topics of immediate relevance to recent immigrants. The curriculum evolved from focus groups of immigrants, both recent and more established, who were asked, “What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first arrived here?” As a result of this and other research, ten topics were identified: Family, Getting Comfortable in the U.S., Housing, Faith in Institutions, Education, Employment, Health and Safety, Police and Judiciary, Government, and Community. There is also an Introduction and a Conclusion module. Two modules have since been added: Financial Literacy and Consumer Awareness, funded by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
USCFI classes use a managed enrollment strategy, which LSNY considers a tool for enhancing student persistence, leading ultimately to successful student outcomes. Students seeking one-to-one tutoring are entered into the program as tutors become available.
Pathways to Education and Employment
LSNY nurtures and sustains relationships with other adult education providers, with Career Centers, Educational Opportunity Centers, and with local higher education entities who may provide a logical next step for our students. To ensure that all LSNY students are fully informed about opportunities open to them, LSNY invites representatives from these providers to deliver presentations about their educational and vocational programs to our students. Students are encouraged to enroll as clients of the Career Centers to enhance their employment skills while they improve their English literacy and civics knowledge.
LSNY provides access to computers with ESOL and basic literacy software for students to enhance their one-to-one and small-group learning experiences. LSNY believes that information about technology, access to technology, and the utilization of appropriate technology can provide a powerful instructional tool to assist students. For program data management and improvement, LSNY uses the New York State Education Department Adult Student Information System and Technical Services (ASISTS) web-based database.
Serving Learning-Disabled Students
Although the percentage of Learning Disabled (LD) within the immigrant population reflects the population as a whole, unique issues affecting new immigrants who arrive with no education, or from oral cultures, have a real impact on the way they are taught. The USCFI curriculum, targeted to the lowest level ESOL learners, is sensitive to the traditions and practices of oral cultures, which emphasize community and cooperative learning.
LSNY’s trained staff perform a comprehensive intake and assessment process for all potential students that includes the appropriate standardized diagnostic instrument and an interview process that ascertains students’ preliminary goals. LSNY selects sites for its classes at locations easily accessible to the majority of students, e.g. central-city libraries like Riverfront in Yonkers and Finkelstein in Spring Valley. Referrals are made through the LSNY offices and information is provided through the USCFI curriculum’s “Resource Pages.”
LSNY also provides extensive case management services to help with issues such as lack of appropriate and safe shelter, hunger, domestic violence and drug abuse, dealing with children’s issues with the local school system, and other barriers to learning
LSNY partners with the Yonkers Riverfront Library, the Finkelstein Memorial Library of Spring Valley and the New City Library. Over the years our private benefactors have included the Pforzheimer Foundation; the Levy/VonWald Foundation; the Walbridge Fund, the Verizon Foundation and the Westchester Community Foundation. We receive major funding from the New York State Education Department. Our corporate clients have included Consumers’ Union, the Westchester Country Club, the Hospitality Resource Group and major Westchester hotels including the Ritz Carlton, Doral Arrowwood, the Renaissance and the Marriott.