Anne Arundel County Literacy Council dinner celebrates tutors, students

The Literacy Council Appreciation Dinner's featured speaker was Ray Williams who is the student of reading tutor Jan Booth. He entered the reading program in 1992 but had to drop out. He came back nine months ago at age 60 and achieved his goal of learning to read.
The Literacy Council Appreciation Dinner's featured speaker was Ray Williams who is the student of reading tutor Jan Booth. He entered the reading program in 1992 but had to drop out. He came back nine months ago at age 60 and achieved his goal of learning to read. (Sharon Lee Tegler / Correspondent)

The room was crowded and the buffet line long as tutors gathered with students and their families for the annual Anne Arundel County Literacy Council Appreciation Dinner at Woods Church on April 26.

Reading and writing tutor Jan Booth and husband Larry were surrounded by a table full of grateful students and proud family members. The former teacher and Anne Arundel County Community College professor said she admired her students' courage, receptiveness, and determination to conquer reading.


To her right was student Ray Williams and family. To her left were student Brian Martin and his wife Brandi.

Williams would be the evening's featured speaker and Martin, who's been in the AACLC program for five years, would reveal how well it's broadened his horizons.


One table over, tutor Antoinette DeVito was all smiles as student Gilbert Fouch arrived with his family and handed her a bouquet of flowers.

A retired public school teacher, DeVito enjoys coaching adult students one-on-one in the writing, word recognition and language arts skills needed to read well. She said some students learn best through phonics. Others, like Fouch, need to "see" the text on the page.

Bouncing his small son on his knee, Fouch said he's been an AACLC student for two years and feels it's helped him a lot and given him confidence.

Math tutor Debbie Turner, a retired corporate consultant, chatted amiably with her student Betty Neuwirth. Turner's been a reading tutor for three years but switched subjects when AACLC added math to its program this year.

Neuwirth, who dropped out of high school for personal reasons, needed to sharpen her math skills to get her diploma.

Student Robert Smith has received reading and math tutoring from the Literacy Council for two years and did so well he's entered college. He was sitting with his new tutor Janet LaBella who's helping him conquer college level materials.

When disabled due to a job related injury, Smith came to the realization he was having trouble with reading and sought help through AACLC.

"Not being able to read was a major cause of my low self-esteem," he said. "I'm blessed to finally be able to realize my potential."

The dinner over, Literacy Council Executive Director Lisa Vernon introduced speaker Ray Williams –Jan Booth's student.

Noting what a great honor it was for him to speak as a student, Williams recounted the journey that brought him to the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council.

He was smart and tried his best in elementary school in the late 1950's, but didn't learn like other children because of an inability to focus. He'd be diagnosed today with attention deficit disorder.

Unable to read or write, he dropped out of school and left home at 16, taking a job with relatives at a marina and hiding his illiteracy. At 21, he moved to Annapolis, briefly lived in his car, and was employed by a gas station. He worked hard and, by age 40, he owned his own business with a tow truck and snow plow but had to hire help to keep his books.


Williams became a Literacy Council reading student for the first time in 1992 but, with a family to support, had many obligations and dropped out of the program. Nine months ago, at age 60, he came back to AACLC and fully achieved his goal of being able to read.

"The confidence and independence that knowing how to read has given me has been like getting a million dollars. I'm happier than I've been for years," he said.

Tutor assessor Deena Fujimoto also spoke and several students made comments with the common theme "It's never too late to start."

The program concluded with awards to students for their accomplishments. For information on Literacy Council, visit www.icanread.org.

Prom dresses for Becca’s Closet

Inspired by a Florida organization called "Becca's Closet" that gives donated prom dresses to girls who need but can't afford them; students from Severn School's Zonta Club wanted to create a similar program.

In December, they applied to be a Becca's Closet chapter and studied the organization's model for collecting donated gowns and distributing them.

They launched their own "Prom Dress Drive" in late March using emails, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to publicize it. In addition to dozens of anonymous donations from the community and from Severn School families, they received an unexpected donation of 35 prom dresses from the Severna Park High School Key Club.

Aided by Severn teacher/adviser Sandra Sanders and SPCC board member Dr. Diane Lebedeff, they were given space at the community center on April 22 to display between 20 and 30 gowns in all styles, sizes and colors along with glamorous accessories.

Student coordinator Mallory Gersh said many dresses were chosen by girls for this year's proms. Those left will be kept for other occasions since Becca's Closet will remain active.

Email Severna Park news to Sharon Lee Tegler at wingsorb@aol.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @SharonLeeSays.

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