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Empowering People Through Literacy

"I am so encouraged and thrilled with the ESL conversation group!  You never know what might happen there!  And it's all good!  Today, the three ladies who came mainly talked among themselves with free-form authentic conversation, about all kinds of things, their kids, their names, how they learn English.  I helped with vocabulary, clarifications, and more questions for example, baby sitter vs. baby sister.  ‚ÄčThis was the first time I had a group who just talked among themselves for so long and so well.  I think it was because of the presence of a new student, Yahaira, who is a big talker but also helps others and asks them questions.  Normally we do something more structured and I have prepared some lists of questions or worksheets to help them with verbs, or we practice spelling and pronunciation.  Today the conversation just evolved on its own and I was so happy to be there.  Eventually the conversation started to slow down so we played supermarket bingo to practice vocabulary and pronunciation (and to win really fantastic prizes) with Buddha on Ying's smart phone helping out with good luck.  Then I began what I foresee as a long process of working with the information that is contained in the famous 100 questions about civics for the U.S. citizenship test.  (I hope I am not doing something that is going to create problems somehow.  This came about because of a student's question.  If I find out about actual classes to prepare for citizenship, I will gladly direct them to such places.)  They almost jumped out of their chairs, they were very excited, and they wanted to do homework.  (I'm sorry I am taking a lot of your time with this message--I am just babbling, I know!)

This is such a great pleasure for me, Casandra.  And I am very grateful to you and all the staff for the hard work you do every day to make these opportunities possible.  I am certain we are making a big difference in the lives of many people in our community, a difference that they could not easily achieve elsewhere.

Onward and upward!"

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Ulster Literacy Association

Welcome to Ulster Literacy Association

Agency Background

Since 1981 the Ulster Literacy Association (ULA) has been helping educationally disadvantaged adults to improve their reading, writing and speaking of English at no cost to them.  Our mission is to provide adults with effective programs in reading, writing and communication skills necessary for them to achieve their personal and professional goals.  Overall, ULA serves nearly 400 students annually through the following programs:

One to One Tutoring

ULA is entirely student-centered.  ULA keeps its doors open without discrimination to all adult learners and makes every attempt to provide them with services.  We call, email and even text message everyone enrolled in our program annually to make sure they are satisfied with their tutoring and/or educational experience with ULA.  Many of our learners have had negative experiences in a traditional classroom setting.  Tutors work to tailor a learning approach that meets a student's individual goals and scheduling needs.  Gaining skills, receiving individualized attention, and feeling personally committed to their own learning process all contribute to learner self-confidence.  Improving literacy skills has a positive impact on an individual in ways which are not measurable through standardized testing alone.  Required monthly reporting by tutors helps keep ULA staff informed about student achievements beyond testing results, including attaining citizenship, getting a better job, participating in their children's education, filling out applications, or better managing their finances.

BOCES Pre-High School Equivalency and ESL Classroom Support

Through a recent partnership with BOCES, through a Literacy Zone grant, we conduct High School Equivalency and ESL classes at the Literacy Center 4 evenings a week.  In addition, we place qualified volunteer tutors into BOCES classrooms throughout the county to help ensure the success of those learners who may need extra support in writing and math.

The Kingston Literacy Center

The Literacy Center provides a different opportunity for our learners.  While they are waiting to be matched with a tutor, or in addition to tutoring, our learners can drop in to several classes offered throughout the year, including computer literacy, math, creative writing, essay writing, conversational English, and civics.  Classes build community for our learners and tutors alike.  The center also invites casual conversation between tutors, staff and students.  Moreover, volunteers can meet informally to share information, stories and advice.  At the Literacy Center in Kingston we offer small group classes in conversational English, computer literacy, citizenship and numeracy.

Off-site Classes

When requests come from other agencies, libraries or local businesses for literacy services, we become mobile.  Student intake, tutor training and post-testing now occur in our Kingston office as well as in one of the 21 Ulster County libraries.  Current programs include literacy classes at farms; staff improvement classes at nail salons and health spas; English classes for parents in New Paltz, and citizenship classes in Saugerties.

The Jail Writing Program

ULA serves inmates at the Ulster County Jail through the new ULA Jail Program, funded by the Department of Education, which offers six-week writing, life skills, and computer literacy classes on an ongoing basis.  This program has been so successful over its 10-year history that several inmates have gone on to become ULA tutors.

Parental ESL at Kingston Schools

Parents with children attending Kingston schools are encouraged to improve their English with small classes held in their child's school.  Currently in operation at Kingston High and George Washington Elementary schools, this program supports families by creating an environment where whole families are learning together.  It also creates safety and encourages participation in school events and activities.

Learn more about ULA and our challenge.