ITC Midwest Gifts Grant to Adult Basic Education

CMC believes that independence is achieved through education. Learning allows our students to rely less on others and to discover how to impact the world around them. Through this independence an array of opportunities open up, allowing us to better serve those close to us and our community. This is the independence CMC hopes to give everyone in our community. By not only giving people the tools they need, but teaching how to use them, CMC provides a path to a sustainable future characterized by hope and fulfillment.

Right now there are over 300 volunteer tutors teaching over 450 students these valuable skills. While CMC remains astonished by this continual outpour of community support, none of this would be possible without the work and support of donors and grantees.

Being the largest and longest running program at CMC, Adult Basic Education requires a lot of effort and resources to continue its exceptional service to the community. Because of this, CMC is happy to announce that Adult Basic Education has been gifted a $10,000 grant by ITC Midwest through their Charitable Giving Program! This grant will be used to support the Catherine McAuley Center’s Adult Basic Education Program expenses, including educational materials, program coordination, and volunteer tutor training. It will also provide support for the more than 300 annual volunteers who provide one-on-one instruction to more than 450 students as they work toward their educational goals.

“ITC is pleased to provide this funding to the Catherine McAuley Center and its adult educational programs,” said ITC Midwest Local Government and Community Affairs Regional Manager, Troy Weary. “The greater Cedar Rapids community has been highly supportive of ITC’s efforts to improve the regional electric transmission system. We’re pleased to give back to the community and support educational programming at the Catherine McAuley Center.”

Through the ITC Charitable Giving Program, ITC Midwest makes contributions to local nonprofits as part of the company’s commitment to the many communities it serves. ITC supports qualified nonprofit organizations whose programs and projects emphasize the company’s focus on education, environmental stewardship, social services, and health and wellness.

CMC’s Executive Director, Paula Land, stated, “We are thrilled to have the support from ITC so that hundreds of people in our community can use their new and improved communication skills to make stronger connections and live more purposeful lives.” It is truly an honor to be given an opportunity to help maintain and improve the quality of services offered by Adult Basic Education. To have community partners who understand the significance of education in a person’s life is a blessing and we’re thankful for ITC Midwest’s support for the Catherine McAuley Center and their support for education.

Education through Community Support

The Catherine McAuley Center’s (CMC) Adult Basic Education Program tutored over four hundred active students last year and while we have a committed group of more than 250 volunteer tutors, more than 100 individuals remain on the wait-list to receive tutoring. Conflicts with scheduling, tutor availability and transportation all pose obstacles to a student’s participation in the program. Because of these conflicts, CMC began offering classes at off-site satellite locations. The introduction of these locations allow CMC to reach more people and better meet the needs of students who face some of the challenges listed above.

Currently, CMC has three satellite locations: the Hiawatha Public Library, St. Jude’s Catholic Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Cedar Rapids. The spaces and commitment of the volunteers at these locations are invaluable to the Adult Basic Education Program and CMC. CMC would like to thank those involved and highlight the growth and commitment of these important community partners.

Hiawatha

Students and tutors pose for a picture at our Hiawatha location

CMC’s partnership with the Hiawatha public Library began in 2014 out of the need to reach individuals living in Hiawatha experiencing problems with transportation to Cedar Rapids. Courses are split evenly between literacy and ESL, and U.S. citizenship exam preparation and led by CMC’s curriculum specialist Katie Rosenberger. The Hiawatha library director Jeaneal Weeks says, “It is gratifying to know that we are providing a needed service, and that the students feel welcome in the library.”

We are extremely grateful for the things the Hiawatha public Library has been able to achieve and the work they do in collaboration with CMC. As our first satellite location, the Hiawatha public library allowed CMC to lay the groundwork for further endeavors to reach those who may have been difficult to reach before.

Last year, through our partnership with the Hiawatha Public Library:

  • 16 volunteers tutored in various subjects.
  • We established weekly classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11am – 1pm.
  • We offered tutoring in ESL, literacy and U.S. Citizenship exam preparation.
  • 33 students worked to achieve their education goals.
  • Students and tutors studied for a combined 1873 hours!
  • We hosted students from 2 countries: Bhutan and Burundi.

St. Jude’s

St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids

Seeing the need within their own parish for English tutors, St. Jude’s Catholic Church originally approached CMC with the prospect of creating a satellite location for Adult Basic Education. They had individuals within the parish with both the desire to learn English and the desire to teach it. Our partnership began in the autumn of 2016 and we look forward to its continuation!

Mari Hunt Wassink from CMC leads the classes held at St. Jude’s and expressed thanks and gratitude for the help they’ve provided, “it’s encouraging to witness the progress students make each week toward their goals, including learning English to become a registered nurse, achieve U.S. citizenship, talk with their children’s teachers, attend college and make a friend.”

Last year, through our partnership with St. Jude’s:

  • 33 people volunteered their time to tutor.
  • 47 adults received tutoring.
  • We offered classes in ESL, literacy and U.S. citizenship exam preparation.
  • Classes were held on Tuesdays from 9am – 12pm.
  • Students and tutors studied for 750 hours!
  • We hosted students from 7 different countries: Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Togo and Vietnam.

Seventh-Day Adventist

Seventh Day Adventist Church in Cedar Rapids

In January 2017, the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) and the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) launched a partnership to provide free tutoring services to adults in the community in an alternative location for students and volunteer tutors.

The Catherine McAuley Center is grateful for the welcome that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has extended to each of the students, tutors, and CMC staff. The church has generously shared its facilities to help provide a safe educational space. In addition, many members have given their time and talents to volunteer as tutors. As we continue this collaboration, we look forward to offering another year of hope and opportunity together. Thank you!

Last year, through our Partnership with Seventh-day Adventist Church:

  • 14 people volunteered to teach English, literacy and citizenship.
  • 21 adult students received free tutoring.
  • Classes took place on Thursdays from 4pm – 7pm.
  • We offered courses in ESL, literacy and U.S. citizenship exam preparation.
  • Students and tutors studied for a combined 352 hours!
  • We hosted students from 7 different countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Rwanda and Vietnam.

Tutor with Us

The collaboration between satellite locations and CMC has become a crucial resource for people striving to achieve their educational goals. Together, we continue to serve and empower students to build a better future.

CMC would like to express our gratitude towards those parishioners and community members who volunteered to tutor and instill hope in individuals. CMC is always looking forward to continuing our partnership with satellite locations and being able to help those who want help!

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor, whether at a satellite location or at CMC’s main center, sign up for a tutor orientation at www.cmc-cr/volunteer.

Pronouncing Students’ Names

Student close-up

“A name well-spoken is a simple but meaningful gift we can all extend each other as we nurture an inclusive community at CMC.”

In a community like CMC, where tutors, students, and staff alike come from many different backgrounds and 51 countries, we’re bound to say each other’s names wrong. Yet the impact of a mispronounced name may be more harmful than we believed.

An excellent podcast from the Cult of Pedagogy discusses the unique duty educators have to pronounce students’ names well, especially when they aren’t anglicized. This article is based on the original podcast, which you can listen to here, or find on iTunes.

Jennifer Gonzalez, a National Board Certified teacher, explains in the podcast, “One of the simplest ways we can show respect to our students and show that we are interested in them as individuals… is to make an effort to pronounce their names correctly, or call them what they want to be called.” What happens if we don’t? “Whether you intend to or not,” Gonzalez says, “what you’re communicating is, ‘Your name is different, foreign, and weird. It’s not worth my time to get it right.’”

Oftentimes, students who come from other countries are used to the relentless mispronunciation of their name—at the doctor’s office, at the bank, at the coffee shop—which can serve as a constant reminder that they are considered an outsider. When we, as their friends and teachers, make an effort to say their name correctly, they understand that we care about them and value them. They belong.

A name well-spoken is a simple but meaningful gift we can all extend each other as we nurture an inclusive community at CMC.

Student and tutor

“Every name is an opportunity to cultivate a welcoming community that embraces everyone just as they are.”

How does this look in practice? Gonzalez remembers that the teachers she most appreciated as a student were those who did whatever it took to learn students’ names, even if it meant asking them on multiple occasions, or taking class time to practice. Although this might seem annoying or cumbersome, for her it was evidence that the teacher really cared.

As a tutor at CMC, it’s never too late to improve your pronunciation of your student’s name, even if you’ve worked with them for a long time. They will appreciate it! 

  • Don’t be afraid to admit your error. 
  • Ask them to teach you. Let yourself be the student, and they the teacher.
  • Go online to hear native speakers pronounce the student’s name. Gonzalez recommends Hearnames.com.
  • Make yourself a cheat sheet. Write out a phonetic pronunciation of their name, or draw a diagram linking each syllable to a familiar object. For example, Theotric is pronounced “thee” like movie theater, “AW” like opera, “trick” like trick or treat: “thee-AW-trick.”
  • Don’t give up! Be careful never to impose a nickname on the student because it’s easier for you to pronounce, unless they tell you that’s what they prefer to be called. Believe in your ability to learn their name, and remind yourself that doing so will bear good fruit.

At CMC, we want to extend everyone the dignity of a well-pronounced name. So, we encourage you to correct staff members’ mispronunciations of your name or your student’s name. In doing so, you help us all include and respect one another.

Whatever it takes to learn your student’s name, Gonzalez reminds us, “It is worth the effort to get it right.” Every name is an opportunity to cultivate a welcoming community that embraces everyone just as they are.


By Mari Hunt Wassink, Education Program Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center.