SLC camp graduates six

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, August 30, 2018

Roughly a half-dozen students sharpened their pencils on Wednesday for a quick test at the Suffolk Workforce Development Center on North Main Street, the last class for the Suffolk Literacy Council’s summer camp filled with older residents.

Six students graduated from the weekly classes that ran from July 11 up until Wednesday. It was the fourth year of summer teaching for tutors Jessica Reitz and Don Wittenauer, the Pilot Club’s 2017 Volunteer Literacy Tutor of the Year.

The summer program concentrated on simple geometry subjects pulled directly from Kaplan’s GED Test Prep, specifically measurements, shapes and angles.

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Wittenauer used real-world examples like pyramids and arches to explain shapes to students that may not have had the opportunity to learn such topics in school. He said the trick to tutoring in this context is “constant adaptation.”

“You’ve got to constantly change to meet individuals, and you’ve got to change those individuals, too,” Wittenauer said.

These individuals adjusted to rulers and basic measurements, because some may not have used them when they were younger, according to Wittenauer. They also learned fractions during those measuring lessons.

Both the room and projector were provided at no cost by Larry Brunson, coordinator of the Suffolk Workforce Development Center. Brunson said the program is vital for helping both the young and old earn their GEDs and enter the workforce prepared and ready.

“The Suffolk Literacy Council has been paramount for people getting their GEDs, and GEDs can lead to industry credentials or post-secondary education,” he said.

The graduates at Wednesday’s session each received a certificate of completion and a catered lunch.  It wasn’t the first camp certificate for Pearlie Killevrew, 56, who’s attended several of these summer and winter camps in the past. She and her son, Erick Killevrew, 32, were there to once again to learn something new from Witenauer and Reitz.

Her son was also recognized for perfect attendance alongside Dorothy Cherry, another winter and summer camp regular.

“It’s satisfying, because I learn more in here,” Cherry said. “You learn a lot of different things in this class.”

The summer camp’s math focus was voted on by the students in the last winter camp, Reitz said. But only two of those winter camp voters signed up for summer math lessons, because many went on to earn GEDs or find employment.

It was a reminder to Reitz that these sessions are having an impact.

“I think it makes it worthwhile,” she said.

The Suffolk Literacy Council fills a gap within the myriad of services in Hampton Roads, she said, and many of the students are enrolled in other programs simultaneously.

“We just try to help on the one-on-one level, so then we get really invested in that person’s goals,” she said.

Their focus going into this winter is to work on a plan for a program next year that will allow students to develop real workforce skills. They envision a class in which students will be able to take apart landscaping equipment like lawnmowers and weed-whackers for hands-on learning.

“We do definitely see that we want to do real skills,” Reitz said. “One of our board members’ goals is that we can actually get this to be an actual workforce certification.”

She said it’s still in the very early stages of planning.

“Our board is excited about it, but we want to make sure we have everything (first). We’re putting things together, building the partnerships and seeing who is interested,” she said.