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Teaching English, Building Community

Cape Fear Literacy Council volunteer, Page Lowry, brings commitment to ESL program

The mission of Cape Fear Literacy Council, according to its Executive Director Yasmin Tomkinson, is “to provide personalized education so adults can transform their lives and contribute to a stronger community.” 

This mission is possible only because of volunteers like Page Lowry, who knew in her heart that teaching was her calling from the time she was a child. After a career in marketing, she moved to Wilmington in 1997 with her husband, Herb, where she quickly felt the desire to get involved and make a difference in her community.

Lowry has been volunteering her time at CFLC for 20 years in its English as a Second Language (ESL) program, a companion to CFLC’s Adult Literacy program.

“We offer free, confidential one-on-one tutoring, small classes, and computer-based instruction to help adults improve their basic literacy and English language proficiency, math competency, skills related to computers and employment as well as test-taking preparedness for the GED and U.S. Citizenship,” Tomkinson explains.

Lowry’s experience as an ESL instructor has given her windows on the world.

“By April 1998, I had completed the ESL Tutor Workshop offered by the Cape Fear Literacy Council and was ready to go to work,” says Lowry. “My first students were a mother and daughter who had moved here from Cuba. They knew virtually no English. I worked with them for a couple of years, and even now, 20 years later, we still stay in touch with each other.

“Over the years, I’ve worked with individuals on a one-on-one basis and taught classes with as many as 12 students. I’ve had students from China, Japan, Ecuador, Mexico, France, South Korea, Russia, Colombia, Chile and Morocco. I love what I do, and what makes it so incredibly special is the gratitude the students express. It’s rewarding to know that I might be making a difference.”

One of the biggest misconceptions about what it takes to volunteer with the CFLC is that volunteers must be bilingual.

“While we do have many Spanish-speaking students, you do not have to speak Spanish,” Lowry says. “All classes are taught in English; [students] already know their own language, and they're there to learn English.”

Lowry is currently teaching an advanced conversation class where she learns important cultural differences among the people she works with on a daily basis. The fulfillment one can get from helping others is evident in the way she talks about what she does, and the difference she feels she is making.  

CFLC’s annual Literacy Luncheon will be held on June 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Pine Valley United Methodist Church with keynote speaker Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author.

“The theme that runs through all the elements of the event is ‘perseverance,’” Tomkinson says. “We aim to inspire and educate our luncheon guests so that they understand the impact of the Literacy Council’s good work and perhaps get involved in our non-profit. This event is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and provides much-needed unrestricted dollars that directly support our programs.”

For more information about the luncheon, please visit cfliteracy.org or call 910.251.0911.

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