Aquinas Literacy Center Volunteer Coordinator Sabrina Poulin, upper left, Executive Director Alison Altmeyer, upper right, and Meghan Green share a message of encouragement with the center's learners and volunteers tutors through an online video chat.

COVID-19 No Match for Aquinas as Literacy Training Moves Online

Published June 9, 2020

Aquinas Literacy Center closed its doors on Monday, March 16, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, turning off the lights in its growing headquarters at West 35th and South Wood streets in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago. However, the pandemic has proved little match for the non-profit's staff and volunteers, who have moved literacy training, volunteer tutor development and the organization's community events online.

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Aquinas Volunteer Coordinator Sabrina Poulin reported that the center has continued engaging hundreds of people through online channels to continue its mission of literacy education. Daily English language assignments flow to 124 learners via email, and 50 learners have access to the Rosetta Stone commercial language training software on their computers and phones, Poulin said.

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The direct, one-on-one English language tutoring between a trained volunteer and a local adult English language learner has continued through online videoconferencing, Poulin said. So far, 16 tutor-learner pairs have been actively training through this channel, she said.

"Aquinas ... knows the value that teaching English to adults has on a community during a time of uncertainty," Poulin said. "Students, volunteers and staff have been working diligently to keep teaching and learning."

Social and Community Events

The pandemic has pushed all of the center's social and community events online too, including a happy hour in April to celebrate National Volunteer Week and virtual coffee breaks for learners, volunteers and staff. 

Poulin said that Aquinas is also planning an online professional development session for tutors and that an All-Aquinas Celebration will take place online in lieu of the annual, end-of-the-year Student Awards Celebration and graduation ceremonies.

The center is already anticipating its re-opening this fall, Poulin said, and "is looking forward to beginning in-person tutoring again this September."

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