Claudia was born in California, but spent a significant portion of her life in Mexico. Now, her husband works in the oil fields, and she takes care of their two children, Cesar and Evelyn, who were also born in California. She came to Pennsylvania two years ago to join her husband and their children, and worked for a while in an Early Head Start preschool. She hopes to improve her English enough to be able to work – she especially likes working with kids, but it’s not too much of a preference. She likes to take her children to the park, and practice her English at home with them.
Sue moved to the US from Turkey seven years ago, and met her husband in the US. Now, her husband owns a pizza shop in Moundsville, WV, and she works there with him. They lived in Wheeling for the first five years they lived in the U.S., but Sue had a difficult time making friends there because of her English skills, and she started to get bored. They moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to their Turkish friends. Sue found out about classes at the Literacy Council when she tried to get a job at the library to improve her english, and they referred her here. Sue would like to be able to one day go back to the job she had in Turkey, working as a lab technician. She also likes to paint!
Juan was an assistant manager of a restaurant in Mexico City when he decided to move to the United States in 2004. He found work in California, but a few years later he moved with a friend to Indiana, PA., where, at a neighbor’s house, a small group of Spanish speakers who wished to learn English gathered with people hoping to learn Spanish. That’s where Juan met Gretchen, then a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Juan and Gretchen were married and now have two children. Juan has been studying English in the literacy council’s ESL program for more than a year now. “I am understanding more” he said. “It has helped me a lot. My mother-in-law says my English is much better.
Kim was a journalist in Vietnam. She worked hard while raising her two sons. All of her hard work paid off; they are both engineers now. Kim reconnected with her husband years after they first met. Eventually they were married and Kim moved to the United States to be with him. Shortly after arriving in Washington County, Kim realized that she needed to learn to speak English. When asked why she is attending English classes at the literacy council Kim said, “I want to learn because I want to understand this country. I want to have friends and work. I would not be able to learn English without the Literacy Council. The teachers here are very good and I am very happy.”
Eleven months ago Ha married an American citizen and moved from Vietnam to America. Upon her arrival in America, Ha found it very difficult to communicate. She is happy with her move but realizes that, “With a new life, you need to communicate with everybody.” Ha owned a bridal shop in Vietnam and would love to open one here, but needs to learn English first. Four months ago her husband found the literacy council and arranged for Ha to start classes. At first Ha thought “free equaled not good,” but she was quickly surprised. She loves that she not only learns how to speak English, but also the culture and the way people think. She “loves the environment of the classes and views the students as family.”
Thierry began his career as an IT worker in France for 18 years. When his spouse was transferred to the United States; Thierry and their young son followed. Thierry came to the US with no knowledge of English and obtained a job as a “sandwich artist” at a fast food restaurant in hopes that the immersive experience would help him to learn English. However, the fast food restaurant could not teach Thierry the complexities of grammar. So, Thierry found the literacy council He is progressing quickly in his English education and hopes to be able to acquire a job in IT as a result of his studies.
Akiko works as a graphic designer in Japan. As a professional artist she loves to visit the United States for inspiration. After several trips here, she has fallen in love with this country and now would like to immigrate to the U.S. Akiko’s host family here has a close friend who attends our ESL classes. As a result, Akiko joined our program and studied English and U.S. civics with us for two months. Akiko says she is very shy, but that she feels working with her tutor and attending small ESL classes have helped her a great deal. Akiko’s trip was so successful she plans to return in the spring to continue classes with us. She said she will really miss the students and the teachers while she is back in Japan. “Everyone is kind and I really appreciate all that the literacy council has done for me.”
Moving from Mexico eight years ago for better work, Luis has struggled to find the time to learn English because he works 50 to 60 hours every week. Finally, after many years of struggling, Luis came to the literacy council and started attending classes one month ago. Luis hopes that the program will help him have better conversation at work and to better understand the school work that his six-year old son brings home. With the help of the program, Luis hopes to be able to educate himself enough to gain United States citizenship and to open his own restaurant someday.
When asked what he liked about the program Luis said, “The teachers are nice, understanding, and patient and it is nice to be able to see people speak and make friends in the classes. I would never have a good life without being able to speak English.”
After ten years of living in America with her husband and three sons, all of whom work in the gas industry, Julia was tired of not being able to understand people. She joined the classes at the literacy council just three months ago and is continuing to make progress every day that she comes. “Getting help to speak well enough to a doctor” is just one of the many reasons that Julia joined the program.
Julia currently volunteers her time at a church working with children between the ages of eight and thirteen. When not volunteering, she sells Jafra to make money. At home she only speaks Spanish, but she is “thinking about starting a career as a pharmacy assistant and needs to know more English.” With the English skills she is learning she hopes to achieve this goal. She loves the teachers and how well they explain concepts during her lessons.
After living in Chile for most of her life, Angelica made the move to America seven years ago with her daughter. With her other two children living in Chile and Ecuador, Angelica knew that she would have to make a change in her life. After several years of getting by, Angelica decided it was time to learn English. She found the Literacy Council of Southwestern Pennsylvania and they soon placed her with a tutor.
Angelica has acquired enough English skills that she now works three days a week with adults who have Downs Syndrome. Two months ago Angelica started taking citizenship classes at the literacy council and got her United States citizenship this past summer. She now calls America her home. When asked about her experiences with the literacy council, she expressed “I love ESL and have fantastic teachers.”
Leaving her home in Mexico City two years ago with her husband was no easy task for Lucy. As a medical technician, her licenses won’t work in the United States. Her husband was recruited to work here so off she went. Arriving in America, Lucy found the literacy council, and began to learn English. With her new skills she acquired a job at a local Mexican restaurant. She says “loves people, and it is wonderful to explain, understand, and interact with people I meet.”
The knowledge she has gained from the classes at the literacy council has helped make Lucy more confident and able to understand people her husband introduces her to. With the continued help from the literacy council, Lucy hopes to one day resume her career as a lab technician.
Ubaldo & Guillermina S.
Ten years ago, Ubaldo moved to America to pursue a better life. He has worked many jobs, yet never had time to learn English. Seven years later, his wife Guillermina moved to the States and they decided that learning English was very important. Before taking ESL classes at the literacy council, both were nervous when approaching and talking to new people.
The couple has now been coming to the literacy council for over two years. “The point of these classes is to help my accent and learn verbs and grammar,” stated Ubaldo. Ubaldo has been a citizen for three years and he and the literacy council are helping Guillermina prepare for her citizenship test. Guillermina now feels more comfortable talking to people and has also learned enough English to get hired. “We really like the teachers, the books are free, and these are the only classes that are free in the whole area,” responded Ubaldo when asked what they liked about the ESL program.
Mexico seems like just a memory after leaving nine years ago. When Yohana first came to America, her parents had sent for her, along with her two sisters and brother, to be brought to a farm that they were working on. “I changed everything,” Yohana said. She has had many different jobs over the past nine years and finally decided that she wanted something more.
She started attending classes about a year ago. Through the help and encouragement of the program, Yohana hopes to be able to get her GED. In the next year, she would like to take the U.S. citizenship test. She also would like to be able to help her seven-year-old son with his homework. “You need English for everything;” states Yohana, and for this reason she is so happy with the patience and understanding of her teachers at the literacy council.”
Nine years ago, Rosa left Mexico City to move to California for her husband’s job. Two years later, that job brought them to Pennsylvania. Rosa has two children and felt that learning English was the best thing she could do. One month ago her friends told her about the program at the literacy council. At first, she was a little skeptical because her English was already pretty good and she thought the classes would only cover basic English.
A month later, she is still enjoying the program. Rosa just started a job as a bookkeeper and realized she needed to improve her writing skills for career progression. Within the next few years, Rosa hopes to have her English writing skills advanced enough to resume her career as an accountant. She believes, “To live in the United States people must learn and improve their English and provide more opportunities for themselves.
One year ago Merediith, who is 20, moved from Mexico with her family to live closer to family members and to seek a better way of life. In Mexico Merediith was in college, but since moving here she has not been able to attend until she learns more English. Instead of school Merediith has been working full time in a pizzeria. ” I like work but prefer school,” Merediith exclaimed. Three months ago Merediith came to the literacy council and is quickly learning English. Since having started at the council Merediith “feels better, has made progress, meets new people, and has a better understanding of words.” She “feels safe int the States” and is hoping that with the help of the literacy council’s programs she will be able to eventually return to college.
Five years ago Mahvash moved to the United States to live with her daughter. Her daughter had been living in the States for eleven years and Mahvash wanted to be closer to her. In Iran she had learned the basics of English but she wants to learn more. She says, “I have an interest in learning English, to live here I must understand the people.” Mahvash began classes with the literacy council two and one-half years ago and loves the people at the classes. She finds the information very useful and loves the conversation during her classes. Mahvash hopes to get her U.S. citizenship in the near future and loves that she can now talk to her grandchildren in English.
It has been five years since Anna moved to the United States to live with her brother. Over the course of those years Anna has been trying to learn English using books that her sister-in-law gets her from the library. About three weeks ago Anna found the literacy council and started attending classes. She enjoys the teachers and the material she is learning. She hopes the classes will allow her to understand English more and provide her with the skills needed to get a job.
As a retired teacher and the daughter of an Italian immigrant, I have always loved the miracle of language. Traveling to foreign countries and communicating with locals has fascinated me and brought me great joy. Seeing my high school students have that same pleasure and broaden their global horizons was a source of true satisfaction for me. The literacy council has afforded me to do the same thing here in my own backyard. It is a way for me to share my love of language communication and to learn about other people and their cultures. It is truly a rewarding and enriching experience.
As a newly retired teacher, I am delighted to participate in the ESL program offered by the literacy council. The rewards are twofold. This program allows me to continue to use skills and experiences from my thirty-five year career in education for the betterment of those who are eager to learn the English language. In return, I have become a student again as, after each session, I gain a deeper knowledge of and insights to various global cultures and languages. Presently, I am tutoring women from Pakistan and India. Our focus ranges from grammar to oral reading and conversational proficiency. We really get some group chuckles when we are discussing the meaning of idioms, like “Break a leg” or “Don’t stir the pot!” Laughter is such a universal language and connects us all. The students are very appreciative of the opportunities the ESL program offers them. They share their goals and vision of the manner in which they plan to use their English language skills to broaden their lives at home, as well as in the workplace and the community.
After relocating back to the Pittsburgh area, Drew was introduced to the literacy council while searching for volunteer activities and began the process to become an English as a Second Language tutor. During the process, Drew became acquainted with the GED classrooms operated by IU1 and quickly changed focus to support students looking to earn high school diplomas.
Now in his third year working with GED students, Drew continues to contribute in a classroom environment aiding adult members of our community obtain their GEDs.
Drew is a member of Enterprise Accounts for UPS (United Parcel Service) and is a graduate of Duquesne University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live in the Soutpointe area with their dog Mac.
Joe is a Literacy Council tutor who teaches mathematics for the Adult Basic Education program in the GED classroom. He earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics from Waynesburg University and a Masters of Engineering from Penn State. He held various technical positions at Westinghouse, General Electric and Control Data before retiring. Joe also has certificates in Pneumatics and Financial Management. He has held sales support positions at Information America and the Bisel Company. During these years he taught programming and mathematics for management courses at General Electric and at Penn State Behrend College as well as Business Statistics at Waynesburg College. Joe enjoys helping adults who come to the GED program with various levels of mathematical skills, then seeing them obtain their GEDs.
I was inspired to become an ESL tutor after reading an article about the Literacy Council in the Washington Observer-Reporter newspaper. I volunteered immediately because I had been a high school ESL teacher in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I know how rewarding it is to teach students who being class with few English skills and blossom into self-confident adults.
There is no downside to being an ESL tutor. I wholeheartedly believe that we are doing something good and am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Literacy Council.
I attended college in both Spain and Costa Rica and have had my share of confusing adventures. I know how overwhelming life in a different country can be. In my class we often talk about situations that have confused my students. I love seeing that “now I get it look” on their faces after I have given them an explanation.
I really enjoy teaching English as a Second Language. Whenever the students “get” something, the joy on their faces is such a reward. All of the tutors have a great relationship with their students and that is the same with me. We are able to laugh at each other and we learn from our students. I look forward to my two classes at the end of each week – as so many of us say, “it is the highlight of our week.
Marsha is originally from Mansfield, Ohio. After living in Lexington, Kentucky, for many years and working at the University of Kentucky she retired and moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, to be closer to family. She has a strong belief in helping others and helping people improve their reading and speaking skills. She says that working with English as a Second Language students is a privilege she enjoys.
I retired from Allegheny Intermediate Unit where I taught GED classes for twenty years. I taught in different communities in Pittsburgh, working with single parents and their children in a family literacy program. In addition, I worked with learners at Mayview, and special needs learners at Life’s Work. For the last seven years of my career I was an instructor at the Allegheny County Jail leading the inmates to their goal of a GED. Learning something new every day is important to me, and I have learned so much from my students. After retiring I missed being in the classroom, so I chose to be a literacy council volunteer tutor in a GED classroom operated by IU1 in Washington. My husband and I are the proud parents of two wonderful children, and we treasure adventures with our six grandchildren. My passions are spending time with family and friends, gardening, reading, hiking, and creative writing.
My name is Jill. My husband Kelly and I have been married for fifteen years and have a ten year old daughter. I taught high school theater arts in Texas from 2002 – 2007. And I taught high school English and drama in Oklahoma from 2009 – 2010. I am now a home-school teacher for our daughter. I provide childcare for the Literacy Council on Wednesday mornings. This time is, for some children, the only time in which they will hear and use English until they reach school age. I use play as an opportunity to increase their exposure to English. As I interact with them, they become more comfortable with hearing a language different from their first language and subsequently begin to “learn” both English and their native language at the same time.
After college, I was once a dinner guest at a home in Paris and sat across from a pretty young French women with a smile as brilliant as the lights of the city – and I stumbled through my attempts to converse in my limited French leaving me pretty much heartbroken. I learned how fickle communication can be during a visit to Washington, DC, when college classmates and I went to a dance at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. With no knowledge of American Sign Language, I was stunned at how much I felt left out, isolated as hundreds of happy students danced and spoke animatedly with each other by using their hands to create eloquent language. I was truly speechless, and felt helpless.
So, when I came to the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA to help teach English as a Second Language, I was focused on a mission. The dismay and disappointment from missed opportunities to make friends were as fresh in my mind as if my misadventures happened yesterday. I was determined as best I could, to help students of all ages, from any background, feel confident and comfortable whether they were asking for directions, making a purchase, or trying to make a new friend.
I have been tutoring a young man from China and another from Mexico, both of them passionate about learning, and to see them grasp new words and concepts has been exhilarating. There are few experiences more gratifying than watching people learn and grow, and to know that you have played a modest role in their development.
Through the years, I have volunteered as a lector at church, a 4H club leader and as a volunteer bike patroller and trail patroller for the national parks. The link to all of these is that I always volunteered doing something I enjoyed, whether it was reading, working with youth or riding my bike/hiking.
In early 2014, I wanted to give back to my York, PA community, where I was living. Since I loved to read and knew how important it was, I contacted the York Literacy Council to get more information. While taking the tutor training course, I learned that I had a choice of helping someone learn to read in the community, tutor an inmate at the local prison, or tutor English as a Second Language. I was immediately drawn to ESL, admiring anyone who came to this country and who wanted to learn the language and understand how important it was.
My first student was a lady from Moldova, who had been in the U.S. for a year. During the nearly two years we worked together, she improved her vocabulary and communication skills and even earned her English certification from the local community college. This allowed her to move on from her office building cleaning position to an entry level finance department position in a local company.
When I moved to Washington County in December 2015 for a new job, I missed tutoring and so contacted the Literacy Council here. Shortly after that, I was paired with a Ukrainian couple who were transferred to the U.S. by their employer. Their goal was to improve their vocabulary and pronunciation. In our weekly meetings, we work on these areas by discussing current events, reading books together, and playing games such as Scrabble and Boggle. I have enjoyed getting to know them and to see their progress.
I have been a volunteer with the literacy council for fourteen months. I am about to begin with my second student. I recently retired from a teaching career spanning fifty years; forty-seven of those years were as a reading specialist in the elementary grades. I felt that with my experience of teaching reading to children, perhaps I could help some struggling adults who needed a boost in their reading skills to help them become productive adults. Maybe then they could help their children with homework.
I am also volunteering with Community Action Southwest and one of their Head Start programs near my home. I still need to be around children, without all the teaching responsibilities but all the fun of “playing” with little children. Who could ask for more than that?”
Carol Ann A.
A good friend of mine is an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor at the literacy council. She strongly suggested I become a tutor for almost three years. Finally, to humor her, I took the tutor training and accepted a woman from El Salvador as my first student. Never could I have imagined how rewarding and life changing this experience would be.
I am not a teacher by profession and it was hard to believe I could teach someone who knows no English how to speak, read, and write our language. But, I am. My student is smart and has an incredible desire to learn. Together, she and I will get her to the finish line, and along the way we are becoming close friends with a tremendous mutual respect. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I should have listened to my friend a long time ago.
I started out to be a teacher more than 40 years ago, but never got that far. Instead, I had a career in newspapers, and when that was done, I again thought about teaching. A year of teaching writing to college students left me unsatisfied, and I looked around for something else, for students who might be a little more motivated.
I found what I was looking for with the ESL program run by the literacy council. Now, I have two students from Ukraine – a couple who are my age – who come to our sessions prepared and eager to learn. We celebrate their progress, slow as it may be, and try to have as much fun as we can as I stretch their brains. I have been a substitute teacher in the advanced class of ESL students and hope that someday my Ukrainians can join them. I want them to be able to become part of the community, to make friends and enjoy the rest of their lives. If I can help them do that, then I will know I have done something really special and important.
In high school, I studied Spanish, and like most people, I never learned to speak or understand it very well.” In college, I traveled to Spain with a friend. We rented a car and drove across the country. Along the way, we got lost, our car broke down, I got sick, and we had to visit a doctor. None of this was easy since we did not speak Spanish. I remember feeling anxious, and not very smart. I imagine that this is what it must be like for the people who come to the United States who do not speak English.
I was an ESL tutor for a year before coming to the Literacy Council. My current student is from China. You will not meet more motivated students than those trying to learn English as a second language. Tutoring makes you see the English language and culture through the eyes of a person from another country. You find that all the words, phrases, and customs we take for granted need to be explained. I learn something new every day, and it is wonderful knowing that you can make a difference in someone’s life, both in and out of the classroom.
Imagine moving to a new country where you do not know the language. You can’t read shopping labels or know what the items are in a grocery store, talk to the doctor, read prescription labels, chat with a neighbor, understand the radio or TV, read the newspaper, have a conference with your child’s teacher, ask for information or directions, get a job, or do many of the daily activities we take for granted. For many of the students who seek ESL this is a daily problem that isolates them from our community.
Speaking English is a gift to us from our earliest days and it is very rewarding to be able to pass this gift to others to help them adjust to their new country. I have been an ESL tutor for over four years now and each class still has its exciting moments when a student masters a difficult sound, vocabulary, or grammar structure. In addition to learning English students learn American history and culture and know they are welcomed into our community and they have a resource to help with life’s little problems.
Since my grandparents were immigrants and I am a retired teacher, I decided to become a volunteer for the English as a Second Language program this year. It is such a rewarding experience! My first assignment was to tutor two South American women. I helped them prepare for the United States citizenship test. They worked very hard to learn the answers for the 100 civics and U.S. history questions.
Currently I am teaching beginning English to four students, all from different countries. As I tutor them I find it interesting to learn about their languages and cultures. They are from Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Mexico. Our ESL students are enthusiastic to learn English, and they are extremely grateful for the opportunities the literacy council provides for them.
I have been involved four and a half years now tutoring through the literacy council. It means a lot to me on a couple of different levels. For myself, I receive joy from using skills that were developed over 3 decades of teaching. It’s especially neat to do that with people who want to be there and benefit from their own persistence. It’s refreshing just to meet new folks and hear new stories. Naturally, there are deeper reasons too. I get to watch someone grow in self confidence and perhaps maybe even an improved self image. I’m allowed to be a voice of encouragement and hopefully trust. Who honestly would not want to be a part of something like that?
I have enjoyed being a tutor with the Literacy Council for many years now and have never met a student that could not be helped in one way or another. I tell all of my students, please do not be afraid to ask questions as there are no dumb questions only dumb answers. If one wants to be an effective teacher working with adults, you have to have a sense of humor and always remember what works for one student may not work with the next. You have to arrange your teaching style to meet the needs of the student you are working with.
When I met my last student, he admitted that was the first time in his life he had ever gone into the library (and he was in his fifties and had lived in this area all his life). That touched me, and so did the fact that he wanted to learn to read so that he could find a better job, as well as be able to read for pleasure just like his dad did years ago. When he mentioned that he had three previous tutors over the years, I wondered if I was up to the job, but working with him has been a very positive experience for me as I see him achieve his goals.”
I have been tutoring in the ESL program of the literacy council for over a year now. I’ve enjoyed planning lessons and working with my students. It’s also very interesting to talk with people from other cultures. The students are so motivated to learn and they really appreciate the instruction I’ve given them. It has truly been a worthwhile experience for me. Hopefully, I’ve helped to make a difference in their lives.
Jodi F.“I have been tutoring with the Literacy Council for almost a year now and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. I tutor only once a week, but in that time, so much is learned by my student and by me too! We read or are taught about other cultures, but when you meet and speak to someone from another culture, you gain so much more insight into them and their background. Tutoring allows me to continue my learning as well! And being able to help an ESL student understand or learn new things is a wonderful experience. I love helping people and, through the all of the volunteers at the Literacy Council, we all are making a difference.”
Jodi is a full-time teacher at Jefferson-Morgan School District in Jefferson, Pennsylvania. She is certified to teach Social Studies, Business, Computers, and Information Technology, and English as a Second Language. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Business Finance and Management from the University of Pittsburgh and received her Teacher Certification from Washington & Jefferson College.
She resides in Cecil Township with her husband Ryan and son Nick.
Matt W.Matt serves as a case manager for ESL and literacy classes in both Washington and Uniontown. He works with students to help them plan and prepare for work and for entry into post-secondary school. Even before coming to work as a case manager, Matt has had the opportunity to meet people from many different cultures. From an early age until the time he left home, Matt’s family hosted over 10 exchange students visiting from Brazil, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Japan, and India. From this experience, Matt learned to communicate with others whose English speaking abilities ranged from beginning to advanced, and he learned to value what they taught him about their cultures. Matt also had the opportunity to experience German culture when a former student hosted his family in Germany. Matt believes these early experiences lead to his passion to teach. He holds a degree in math education from California University of Pennsylvania and works as an instructor, case manager, and coordinator for the Intermediate Unit 1. Matt lives in Belle Vernon with his wife, three children, and two dogs.
Mary Lynn G.I moved to Southwestern Pennsylvania for the first time in my life in 2011 after my retirement from the professional ministry in upstate New York. (My husband and I wanted to be closer to our only grandchildren who live with their parents in this area.) A new friend invited me to consider volunteering with the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA. I was initially interested in the work of Literacy Council in a time when fear and dislike of refugees made the daily news. Having worked with refugee groups in several places in my ministry, I knew a different reality; but I was not meeting many people in this area who hadn’t grown up here. I also taught school before I went to seminary, and have always loved teaching. I enjoy tutoring and teaching with Literacy Council; my experience has been far better than I ever imagined.
Not only do I have the honor of getting to know many motivated and gifted people who are working hard to learn English and to build a new life in this place, but I also am honored to partner with a group of talented and gifted people who are dedicated to teaching and supporting new immigrants to America. And, I continue to rediscover how much I love the challenges and joys of teaching.
Diana P.I am a retired teacher. I taught 38 years in the Washington School District. I received my degree from West Liberty College (now University) in Elementary Education K-8 with a minor in Special Education K-12. I received my permanent certification after completing 30 graduate credits.
I missed teaching after retirement. It was my life’s calling. That is why I came to the Literacy Council to tutor ESL students. Not only do I feel like I am at home teaching these students, but I love getting to know my students’ cultures and struggles in their homelands. I have a better understanding of their country’s oppression and poverty. My students are bright, moral people wanting a better life for their families. I am grateful to be a little part of their journey to that end for them. I cherish the friendships I have made with my students as well.
Marie H.Marie Higgins is a second generation American of Italian descent. “All of my grandparents were born overseas, except for my grandmother who was born here.” Marie spent her first five years living in the “United Nations” section of Pittsburgh in Oakland. At that time, Oakland was a small, Italian neighborhood. With the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museums and major hospitals in her backyard. Marie was exposed to many different cultures, races, nationalities, and ethnic groups at a very young age. She enjoys trying food from different countries, watching traditional dancing, attending folk festivals, and reading and watching different television programs to learn about different cultures and countries. As a young teen, Marie began a subscription to National Geographic, which she still maintains to this day. “It’s like a vacation each month.
As a child, her favorite subjects were Reading, English, History, and Geography. She attended a tough city school, Langley, in the West End Section of Pittsburgh where she was exposed to many different races and nationalities on a daily basis. After high school, Marie attended Robert Morris College, and obtained a B.S.B.A. with a major in Economics and a Minor in Management. She worked several years in the banking and restaurant industries, but after a few years decided to become a medical transcriptionist. After graduating from Median School of Allied Health Careers, Marie worked for the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hospitals for fifteen years in Oakland. There she had regular, direct contact with doctors, professionals, and administrators from European Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.
Marie moved to Washington County over twenty four years ago. For the last seventeen years, Marie has worked with families in Washington County as a social worker. Marie values the importance of family, friends and having a strong support system. She considers herself blessed in many areas and wants to give back to the community. “I know it would be difficult coming to a new country, not knowing the language, having to learn new customs, and culture. That inspires me to want to help those coming to America transition easier. Knowing the language is vital and opens many doors. America’s success was built on the sweat, hard work and great ideas from many people from all over the world. Working with ESL students helps me to learn their language and culture and them to get acclimated here.”
Marie enjoys being around people and animals, traveling, walking, biking, going to the gym, attending movies, plays, and concerts, going out to restaurants, fishing, being near the ocean, and visiting family members. Every day is a new learning experience!
Ann K. Drach
Kris Drach is the President of the Board of the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA. She also serves as the Agency’s volunteer program director and tutor supervisor. During the past eight years, she has trained and certified almost 100 volunteer tutors and been responsible for the enrollment and literacy education of more than 700 adults in our region. She established the English as a Second Language Program in Washington County and is proud to point out that the Literacy Council has helped women and men from 48 countries. She started and funds the Literacy Council’s Children’s Program which helps prekindergarten children transition into public school without a language barrier.
Growing up, Kris was the child of a career Air Force pilot. Immediately after college she joined the Army. As a result, the first 45 years of her life were hallmarked by world travel. When it was time to retire, like most military people, Kris needed to find her “forever home.” This was an easy choice. Her ties to Southwest Pennsylvania are deep. Her father owned a farm in Greene County and her mother’s family began their American journey in the 1700s as indentured servants in Washington. Though she continued to work and travel as a defense consultant after retirement, 20 years ago Kris moved here and made this area her permanent home.
Kris served in the Army for 28 years and commanded at every level through brigade command, retiring as a full colonel in 2002. A part of the bow wave of women who helped open Army ranks to expanded roles for women, Kris’s service and activism in supporting women’s equality in the workplace greatly impacted increasing professional opportunities for military women.
After 28 years, Kris’s career was ended by a serious breast cancer diagnosis. After successful treatment, Kris became a successful advocate and lobbyist for dramatically increased funding by the federal government for breast cancer research.
Kris holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management, a Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies, and a Master’s Degree in Military Arts and Sciences.
Board Vice President
A 2006 graduate of Leadership Washington County, Bridget is currently serving on the Curriculum and Alumnni committees, and is an ex-officio Leadership Washington County board member. She is very active in her local community, currently sitting on the board for the Salvation Army in Washington County, and is the Chair of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, Circulation Committee, in Harrisburg. She is the past president and active member of the Interstate Circulation Managers Association, and served on the Washington County United Way board of directors for several years.She is the recording secretary for the Ten Mile Baptisit Association, and is the Sunday School Director at her home church.
Bridget resides in Greene County with her husband Bob, and elementary school teacher in the Uniontown school district. Her daughter Julia is a student at Washington and Jefferson College and her son Jessie resides in Alabama.
William J. Campbell
Bill enjoyed a 35 year career at Alcoa, Inc., having held management roles in Transportation, Production Control, and Internal Audit. He retired from Alcoa in 2009 and began volunteering. He serves the PEAL Center of Pittsburgh as Treasurer, is a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, and has volunteered with the Greater Washington County Food Bank from 2009 to 2015.
Bill is a supporter of education, having served as a Lecturer at the University of Evansville, and has conducted numerous trainings on topics including finance, quality, and human resources. During his career, Bill has traveled to more than 35 countries, many of which do not speak English, which has enabled him to have a keen appreciation of being in a country where a different language is commonly spoken.
Rachel Zilcosky is the Adult Education Coordinator for Intermediate Unit 1. She began working in Adult Literacy in 1992 as a volunteer tutor at the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. Over the past 23 years she has volunteered and worked in the field of adult basic and literacy education as a GED teacher, professional development coordinator, work readiness teacher, health literacy coordinator, and GED test administrator. In 2004, Rachel joined the adult basic and literacy education staff at Intermediate Unit 1 and has since become a full time adult education coordinator. She is in charge of the adult basic and GED preparation classes in Washington and Greene counties.
In the spring of 2014, Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1) and the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA formed a partnership. Rachel serves as the liaison for the partnership and joined the board of directors in September 2014.
Dr. Sally Mounts
Dr. Sally Mounts is the Director of Development at the City Mission. She has been quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, Inc. magazine, Inside the Locker Room, and MWorld the American Management Association’s Quarterly Management Journal.
A former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and VA Program Director, Dr. Mounts has a Doctorate in Psychology from Yeshiva University, a Master’s Degree in Journalism from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from The College of William and Mary.
Dr. Mounts was presented with the 2017 Athena Leadership award by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. This internationally recognized award honors women’s leadership role in economic,social, and civic development within the community.
Honorary Board MemberHelen Crunick is a retired reading specialist for Chartiers-Houston School District. She joined the literacy council in 1988 as a board member and was named executive director in July of 1993. Helen’s most notable contribution to the literacy council has been in the area of prevention. Through her efforts, a Baby Book Bag is given to every mother of a baby born at Washington Hospital. The bags are sponsored by community businesses and organizations and contain a baby board book and literature outlining the importance of engaging babies in reading from birth.
“We know that language development is critical from birth to the age of four, and if it not done in that time frame you do not make it up,” she said. “Words are brain food.” Since the inception of this program in 1994, the Literacy Council has distributed over 26,000 Baby Book Bags. Helen has continued to serve the literacy council as an honorary board member for many years.