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Gracias. Xie Xie. Añay.
MARGATE – For Marlene Rebolledo of Colombia, the ability to communicate with her neighbors in Absecon was important. For Lidia Valencia of Peru, becoming a naturalized citizen of the USA was a goal. For Donald Lark of Richland, learning to read was the realization of a lifelong dream.
These three were among the 70 people who gathered Monday, June 18 at the annual Tutor-Student Recognition Night held by the Literacy Volunteers Association Cape-Atlantic Inc., and shared their first-person testimonials on how the power of learning to read and speak English had changed their lives.
“This program does something for the heart,” said James Woodson of Atlantic City, an 11th grade dropout who couldn’t fill out a job application before working with tutor Cathy Palmentieri of Northfield.
“I was born in 1935 in Atlantic City,” Lark said, addressing the group at Steve and Cookie’s restaurant in Margate. “I just went to school because I was told I had to. I didn’t go to learn.”
After school, he said, he married and had to get a job. That job, as a truck driver, required map reading, for which he and his wife, Lorraine, said he had a sixth sense. Now retired, Lark said, “I had to find something else to do.”
He’s been working with tutor Anna Weisberg of Linwood for about a year, and said he intends to continue meeting with her and their small group at the LVA office in Pleasantville.
“I want to be able to do what I couldn’t do,” Lark said.
“I did not have the patience to help him,” said Lorraine Lark, a college graduate who worked while raising the couple’s four children. “I gave him the phone number for LVA.”
Lidia Valencia of Egg Harbor Township, who was tutored by Judith Rogers of Corbin City, became a naturalized citizen on June 6. Her husband, Angelo Obispo Valencia, who was tutored by Kate Snyder of Absecon, became a naturalized citizen in the fall of 2011.
“Trying to make students understand why things happened in this country, we talked about slavery, about the Civil Rights movement, about the interment of Japanese citizens during World War II,” Rogers said. “This country isn’t perfect, but it is grand.”
Sheila McLaughlin, LVA executive director, said Snyder has helped three other LVA students achieve their citizenship goals this year.
Diane Mozzo of Ocean City, who has volunteered with LVA for three years and accepted a position on the board of directors during Monday’s event, works with a group of 15 to 20 students in Egg Harbor Township, along with tutors Linda Pinkerton of Marmora and Audrey Owen of Linwood. One of the group’s students recently graduated and became a tutor herself this spring.
Liwanag “Lulu” Dimacale, who was trained as a dentist in the Philippines, was working in the community center where the LVA group meets when she noticed them “sitting at a big table” last year.
“I see a big book,” she said. “So I sit, and I like this. I’m interested. I don’t know how to speak English so much. Now I am finally teaching and I love it so much.”
Another large LVA group is that tutored by Ramona Amilani of Mays Landing. Through working with Liangli Chen-Mutschler, who came to the US three years ago from China, Amilani is now helping about 20 members of the Atlantic Chinese Alliance Church in Ventnor learn to speak English.
“They make me open my mouth,” said Enping Gao of China, a student in the LVA group that meets at the EHT senior center. “I really thank you, my teacher.”
“I’m feeling better now. Thank you so much,” said Luis Rios of Colombia, a student who is tutored by Jane McCarthy of Ocean City at the LVA office in Pleasantville.
“Some people can do it, and some people can’t do it,” Lorraine Lark said, acknowledging who she called the many “unselfish people” at LVA. “Thank God you can do it.”
In speaking Monday night, some LVA students struggled to put into words what their emotions conveyed. But no matter their proficiency with the language, all proved they had learned "thank you."