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Area organizations unite for community literacy

With just more than 3 percent of Goodhue County reported as being Hispanic or Latino in 2011, two organizations began to work together to try to help those people receive the education that could help them find jobs and make them feel comfortable in the Red Wing area.

Their common goal is literacy. The Hispanic Outreach program formed to help the Spanish-speaking population integrate into the Red Wing community by understanding the resources available to them, tutoring their youth and teaching all ages English at the most basic and advanced levels.

Director of Hispanic Outreach Lucy Richardson was once new to the United States as an immigrant from Mexico, just as many of those she works with are today.

She took it upon herself as a young woman to integrate into the Red Wing community. This was a difficult transition, she said, and once she became more familiar with the area, she began volunteering in the organization to help others like her make the transition.

"They need to have those services available and they need to know there is someone there to help them," Richardson said.

Hiawatha Valley Adult Basic Education is designed to help all adults in the community acquire literacy in all topics and on all levels, whether that's with computers, reading or writing, free of charge to the students.

Local ABE Director Theresa Luther-Dolan said that working with Richardson has allowed for the two programs to coordinate what the needs are and work together to fill that need.

For instance, ABE has an office at Red Wing High School, a place where Richardson sees a need for tutoring Hispanic students. Together, she and Luther-Dolan maintain a facility and office hours for tutoring the students and for the adult education programs.

The agencies also work together closely when Hispanic families move to the Red Wing area. Those families sometimes include parents who may not know English or would like to enhance their written and verbal skills, children whose are not as advanced as their Red Wing peers in school topics or adults who never had the opportunity to graduate with an American high school diploma.

That gives the Hispanic Outreach program the opportunity to show these new community members the services available to them, help tutor the students enrolled in classes and help the adults learn English.

ABE would be another option for these adults to learn English, but also a place to learn the skills they will need when entering the job market.

Luther-Dolan said that people often come to her because they cannot find a job and do not know what they are doing wrong. Typically they need to learn 'soft skills' such as arriving on time and being able to communicate fluently.

Both organizations provide free services for those who want to participate, but there are expectations for participants. They are encouraged to make goals, follow through with them and to take them seriously.

Luther-Dolan and Richardson said they take pride in the programs they direct and know that the participants can achieve the goals they set if they take the time to do so.

Population at a glance

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

• 3 percent of the population in Goodhue County is Hispanic

• 80 percent of the Hispanic population in Goodhue County is from Mexico

• 80 percent of the Hispanic population in Goodhue County works on farms