Transcript of Speech from Roopal Saran, LCNV's Executive Director:
Welcome. My name is Roopal Saran and I am proud to be the Executive Director of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Our mission at LCNV is to teach adults the basics of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English so they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community.
I want to thank each one of you for taking time during these unusual days, in this unconventional way, to learn about our work and hopefully be touched by what we do every day. We are especially thankful to our sponsors for collaborating with us in the first place and then being so supportive and encouraging as we transformed what started out as a breakfast into what we hope will be an inspiring virtual experience.
LCNV offers English classes in 15 locations across Northern Virginia from Lorton to Alexandria to Falls Church to Herndon for those whose English is at the 6th grade level or below. We serve nearly 1500 students annually with the assistance of more than 500 volunteers who last year gave 21,000 hours of service to our organization.
Our learners feel the impact of not knowing English every day. They can’t read important emails from their children’s teachers, they have a tough time explaining symptoms to the doctor, and they find it difficult to follow their supervisor’s instructions. Not knowing English affects every part of their lives and prevents them from taking advantage of so much that is offered in their communities.
When they are in our English classes, our students learn vocabulary and grammar to be sure, but that is only one part of their instruction. They learn how to read a map and ask for directions, they learn what is normal and acceptable in interacting with teachers and how to ask for help for their children, and they learn about American customs and business norms, to name a few. These lessons move them on a path to navigating this country while giving them concrete skills that can help them get a better job. As we often say at LCNV, literacy is a survival skill.
In these times of uncertainty caused by COVID-19, our learners, more than 80% of whom already struggle with poverty, are further impacted as many have service jobs with hourly wages and often rely on tips and extra shifts to supplement their income. These jobs are now disappearing literally overnight. Many of our population have now also lost the childcare and meals they rely on the school system to provide before, after, and during the school day. I’ll be honest, I am worried about the health and welfare of our learners and their families. I am also concerned about interrupting their education and a pathway to a better life.
In these challenging times, we may have had to close the doors to our buildings, but we are working tirelessly to open the virtual doors of distance learning. We are reconfiguring our curricula in short order, considering options such as computer-assisted instruction, video-conferencing, cell phone apps, and one-to-one conversations with a learning coach. Above all, we are determined to continue offering English education to those whose futures truly depend on it.
While education is paramount, there is something else our learners gain from their affiliation with LCNV. They gain a community that exists to serve them, a friend to ride the bus with, advice on how to apply for a driver’s license, or a lead to a job with better wages. Their instructors, who come to LCNV with a genuine passion for teaching and connecting with people, act as mentors and often stay in touch with learners long after classes have ended. Collectively, the goal of our talented staff, Board of Directors, and supporters is to ensure that our English classes encourage learners to continue to work in order to better their lives. Through the strong support network LCNV provides, our learners open endless possibilities for future advancement for themselves and their families. Additionally, and of great significance, they begin to participate fully and confidently in our community, making it a more vibrant, diverse, and enriching place for all of us.
Today, throughout the day via emails, social media, and web links, we hope you will tune in to hear from LCNV students, teachers, and supporters. You will learn what LCNV is about and why our work is critical. Check out our website to learn even more about the topic of adult education and LCNV’s many programs.
This moment reminds us that we are all connected like never before. We can’t do what we do without your support. We are calling on your compassion and understanding at this time and hope you will be inspired to make a donation to support this work and more importantly, to support our learners. Thank you again for joining us, we are grateful you have chosen to be a part of today’s virtual event.