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Tutors need more students

Rarely does an organization dependent on volunteers have too much of a good thing, but the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas does _ at least for now.

The council trains volunteer tutors to work with illiterate people and those who do not speak English. The challenge and reward of guiding someone into the wonderful world of reading and writing are substantial, but so is the commitment.

New tutors of English-speaking students pay a $15 fee and attend a workshop that includes 12 hours of training at two evening sessions and one all-day Saturday session. Those who will work with foreign-speaking students pay $20 and undergo 18 hours of training. When matched with a student, a tutor is expected to spend one and a half hours twice a week for up to two years, sometimes longer.

A short item in this column Jan. 11 produced more than 150 calls from potential tutors! Some were eliminated, primarily those who do not live here year-round. "We feel it is not fair to the student to start with a tutor and have the tutor not be able to stay with him until he completes our course," said Kirk Rasmussen of the Literacy Council.

Twenty-one people were enrolled in this month's workshops, seven of them in a workshop for tutors who will work with English-speaking students and 14 in a workshop for those who will be paired with foreign-language students. That's all there was room for. But another 52 are on a waiting list for workshops this summer.

Normally it's students who are on a waiting list, but this month's workshops will turn out enough tutors for all of them. So now the Literacy Council has put out the call for others who would like to learn how to read and write.

The council knows there are an estimated 80,000 people in Pinellas County who are functionally illiterate or who cannot speak English. The council also realizes these people can't read in the newspaper about this tutoring, which is free, private and confidential in one-on-one sessions.

So the council is appealing to individuals and organizations, such as churches and social-service agencies, to spread the word and contact the council at 789-4561.

My motive is selfish; I'm always looking for new readers. But Literacy Council tutoring is unselfish service at its best.

Grant applications taken

It's not even Christmas, but the Clearwater Junior Woman's Club is getting ready to hand out $10,000 through its 1-year-old Helping Hands Community Grants program.

The non-profit groups receiving the grants will be chosen "based on several factors, including the need for funding and the impact of the program on our community," the club said.

Application forms must be turned in by March 11 and can be obtained by calling Mary Ann Fitzgerald at 447-3102 or Susan Petersen at 726-7907.

It may not be Christmas, but these grants are made possible by proceeds from the club's annual Christmas-shopping extravaganza, the arts and crafts show on the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg Junior College known as Christmas Under the Oaks.

Pupils will salute rights

Leila Davis Elementary School pupils last year about this time bowled over several audiences with a really impressive musical production saluting our freedoms as guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

These weren't cutesy songs and children mumbling their lines, I wrote afterward in a column. This was a show that had parents and others fighting back tears.

Some readers complained that hearing about the show after the fact didn't allow them to see it. So this time I'll alert you in advance. The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria of the school, which is on Landmark Drive just south of State Road 580 in Clearwater's Countryside area.

About 150 young people are waiting to wow you.

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