Literacy DuPage student and tutor recognized by Secretary of State Jesse White

  • Left: Student Karelys Alfaro holds the Spotlight on Literacy Award with her tutor, Tony. Right: Literacy DuPage tutor Marlea Smith holding her award.

    Left: Student Karelys Alfaro holds the Spotlight on Literacy Award with her tutor, Tony. Right: Literacy DuPage tutor Marlea Smith holding her award. Courtesy of Carol Garcia, Literacy DuPage Tutor Support Specialist

Updated 7/29/2021 6:02 PM

Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White announced the winners of the 2021 Spotlight on Literacy Awards, which recognize participants in local literacy programs.

Literacy DuPage, one of the state's largest volunteer tutor literacy organizations, is proud that one of its students received the Spotlight on Achievement Award and one volunteer tutor accepted the Spotlight on Service Award.


Due to restrictions involving the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual in-person ceremony was canceled and was held remotely on July 15, 2021.

"I am honored to congratulate these outstanding students for their hard work and determination to achieve lifelong reading and learning skills," White said. "Many of them have had to overcome great difficulties and personal obstacles to reach this level of achievement. I am also proud to recognize our outstanding volunteer tutors for their generosity and encouragement in helping literacy students achieve their highest potential."

Literacy DuPage in Glen Ellyn offers free, customized, one-on-one English literacy tutoring for adults. Established in 1972, Literacy DuPage serves more than 400 adult learners in more than 30 communities throughout DuPage County, enlisting its big-hearted army of over 300 volunteer tutors.

About the Awardees

• Karelys Alfaro -- Karelys came to Literacy DuPage with the goal of increasing her English skills to find a better job. Through hard work, dedication, and the help of her tutor, she found a new position that resulted in being able to purchase a home. Through her time at Literacy DuPage, she can now speak confidently with teachers, friends, doctors, and neighbors. Using her second language outside of the tutor/student environment was sometimes a difficult path. Still, she says, "This learning makes my family and me feel more integrated into our new life, where I can join the community of friends and neighbors."

• Marlea Smith -- Marlea joined Literacy DuPage in 2016 after retiring from her job as a middle school history teacher and has led the Itasca Community Library's English conversation group since 2017. The impact of the conversation group has made an essential difference for the participants, morphing into a social club, as well. Marlea has found creative ways to teach the group English, including conducting a library scavenger hunt and baking muffins in the library kitchen. Without Marlea's dedication, support, and guidance, this group would have disbanded during the pandemic, but Marlea took the challenge head-on, and the group was the first conversation group to meet virtually during the pandemic. Currently, the group is meeting socially distanced at a local park.

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Literacy DuPage serves adult men and women of all ages, nationalities, and social backgrounds. Some students are native English speakers, yet most are immigrants.

Tutors assist learners in improving their reading, writing, comprehension, and speaking skills, allowing them to be more independent and successful at home, at work, and in the community.

To become a volunteer, make a donation, or gain more information, please call Literacy DuPage at (630) 942-5210 or visit