One of the area’s most important educational resources, Sauk Valley Community College’s Project VITAL (Volunteers in Teaching Adult Literacy), turns 25.
Project VITAL will host a special luncheon on Wednesday, November 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the East Mall to recognize the students, tutors, and successes that have been a part of Project VITAL throughout the years. The lunch will include remarks by SVCC President Dr. George Mihel as well as present and former tutors and students.
Since 1985, more than 2,000 volunteer tutors have helped nearly 3,000 adult students that needed help to improve their reading and writing skills. These students, which range in age from 16 to 82, have remarkable courage, unforgettable stories, and one dream - to learn to read and write better.
“When it comes to the importance of Project VITAL’s mission and the impact it has had on the thousands of people that have participated in VITAL since 1985, those numbers say it all and are a testament to VITAL’s staff and volunteer tutors,” said SVCC President Dr. George Mihel.
“During the past 25 years, it has been an honor for Project VITAL to have had such a dedicated staff,” said Zully Vock, Project VITAL coordinator. “However, the program would not be possible without the valuable participation of our volunteer tutors, students, the College, and the agencies and sponsors that have worked with us throughout the years.”
It has been estimated that there are possibly 10,000 area adults that read below the sixth grade level. Many seek help, but are put on waiting lists because of a lack of volunteer tutors. VITAL offers workshops several times a year for volunteers to become literacy tutors. There is no charge and no obligation to tutor. Tutors serve one-to-three hours a week at times and locations convenient for the tutor and student.
The Project, which began in August 1985, was named Project VITAL (Volunteers in Teaching Adult Literacy) by Mike Seguin, SVCC dean of arts and social sciences (retired). The program’s first coordinator, Linda Kim, managed VITAL from 1985 to 2003. She initiated VITAL’s Food Basket Book Drive that enabled people to place books in food baskets at Thanksgiving to be distributed throughout the area. Active in Sauk’s Global Awareness program and Youth Mentoring Program, her original staff included the late Dr. Karen Pinter, who was tutor training consultant; Lana Coomes, secretary (the program’s longest-serving staff member); and Carla Crowson, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor for VITAL and Sauk’s Adult Education Department.
Tim Benedict, VITAL’s second coordinator(2003-2009), expanded the book program, partnering with Leydig Center in Dixon, which helped obtain hundreds of books that were used by VITAL students and tutors. Benedict also made funds available for library cards for out-of-district students and tutors. He also began the Adult Literacy Picnic to celebrate the accomplishments of students and tutors (assisted by Carol Lovekin, adult education coordinator, retired), brought VITAL to the Dixon Correctional Center (DCC) where inmates tutor inmates, computerized VITAL’s records, partnered with community and local agencies, and designed VITAL’s logo. He left to pursue his master’s degree.
VITAL’s current coordinator, Zully Vock, herself a VITAL tutor and ESL specialist, became coordinator in 2009. She has been instrumental in doubling the number of ESL adults that participate in the program, and has created partnerships with Self Help Enterprises of Sterling, the Dixon Public Library and the Polo Public Library. She works with community organizations to facilitate the access of education to adult learners in the Sauk Valley area.
“With the recent merge of Project VITAL into the College’s Adult Education program, VITAL is able to serve more students that need our services,” said Vock, who has worked with Sauk’s Adult Education Department to develop strategies to allow both programs help their students’ population, and continues literacy services at the DCC.
For more information on Project VITAL’s 25th Anniversary Luncheon, call Zully Vock, VITAL coordinator at 815-835-6241, or Lana Coomes, VITAL assistant, at 815/835-6363.