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updated: 4/7/2014 9:33 AM

Human Race: Literacy DuPage tutor learns about the world from her students

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  • Linda Kulikowski of Woodridge, third from right, is returning to the Human Race in 2014 to support Literacy DuPage. She serves as a volunteer and tutor for the organization.

    Linda Kulikowski of Woodridge, third from right, is returning to the Human Race in 2014 to support Literacy DuPage. She serves as a volunteer and tutor for the organization.
    Courtesy of Giving DuPage/LeVern Danley


Literacy DuPage provides trained tutors who work one-on-one or in small groups with adults who are learning English or whose language skills are insufficient to function fully in society.

In the last year, 261 adult learners worked with tutors to learn reading skills as well as language skills to assist with independent living and improve communication in the workplace. In addition to tutoring, Literacy DuPage offers English conversation classes for those learning English as a second language.

Linda Kulikowski of Woodridge began volunteering as a tutor and also helps in the Literacy DuPage office, located near Naperville. She will walk this month in the Human Race to raise money for Literacy DuPage.

Linda Kulikowski

I joined the Human Race to help raise funds for Literacy DuPage so we can continue to "literally help others" achieve better lives.

After I retired, I wanted to share my love of books by helping illiterate adults learn to read. Many immigrants to America can't speak, understand, read or write English. Their inability to communicate effectively through the written and spoken word is a major barrier to their success. Also, many people born in the United States with English as their first language can't read and write well enough to function independently.

After finishing the Literacy DuPage volunteer tutor training and beginning work with my initial student one-on-one, I learned firsthand what disadvantages and obstacles are encountered every day by someone who can't access the wealth of information and resources I take for granted. The simplest tasks -- buying groceries, opening a bank account, applying for a job, understanding the instructions on a medicine bottle -- are frustrating and seemingly insurmountable. Watching my student's progress, the light in her eye when she grasped a word or expression that was once beyond her comprehension, helping her to study for and pass the Naturalization Examination and become a U.S. citizen -- these are the things that inspire me to support an organization that makes these goals realities.

I have been part of Literacy DuPage for more than three years, and I am now working with my second student. I also work as an office volunteer. I am exposed to many dedicated, caring people -- both staff members and other volunteers -- who feel like I do about helping those less lucky than us achieve literacy.

People might be surprised at how much our learners teach us in the course of our sessions. We hear about other cultures, learn the struggles of assimilating into a new society, experience the joys of achievement, and share the basic pleasures of working with our new friends to help them identify and reach their goals.

I'm not a runner, but this is the third year I've walked in the Human Race to support "Laps for Literacy." I'd tell anyone who's hesitant to participate that if you don't think you can run 5K, walk 3K. The race is a great way to meet other volunteers for your own organization, and some who support other organizations as well. You'll be surprised at how easy it is. And, it's wonderful to greet spring by making this commitment.

Anyone wanting to help Literacy DuPage can go to Select Literacy DuPage under 2014 Participating Charities. Click on Laps for Literacy. Near the bottom of the page you'll find the spot to donate to this great cause.

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