Kickoff barbecue for the La Junta Literacy Project

La Junta Tribune-Democrat

By Bette McFarren

Posted Aug 7, 2018 

Retired teachers rally to support new program

The lake gazebo at the City Park looked like who’s who in retired school teachers on Tuesday morning as the volunteers for the new La Junta Literacy Program gathered at the city park for a kickoff barbecue. Otero County Human Services Director Donna Rohde said Sylvia Rocha, La Junta Literacy Program Director, already has 55 volunteers. Rocha is more than pleased at the excellent turnout for volunteers, and still hopes to add ten or twenty more when the high school and college come back in session. Representatives from Colorado Springs (Executive Director Gina Solazzi) and the University of Denver which oversees the program (Ann Sulley and Katy Gaddis), were happy with the quality of volunteers they met. Rhode and Commissioner Keith Goodwin from the county and City Councilman Ed Vela were there to welcome the volunteers.

The opportunity for two hours of tutoring a week, in half hour or hour sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays, sounded good to retired teachers, who are used to a much more intense schedule. “And you are all in one area of the school,” said retired teacher’s aide Marguerite Rodriguez, an all-around good school worker. Rocha emphasized this point, to let everyone know she would be there to help in case of a problem. Also, everyone will be trained in the Peak Reader Program, which is designed specifically for students in the first and fourth grades who are reading one or more years below grade level. No prior tutoring or teaching experience is required, but every volunteer is vetted for the program. Each tutor is assigned one student with whom to work. The program includes a variety of activities to keep the children engaged.

This program originated with the Children’s Literacy Center, which was founded by the Junior League of Colorado Springs, and currently serves students in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, El Paso, Pueblo and Teller Counties. The La Junta program is the first to serve a primarily rural area. It is also unique in that the public school system is giving them locations and school time in which to work, so transportation is not a problem.

Rocha is, of course, pleased with the quality of her volunteers, and she hopes to add some more volunteers when the high school and college classes reconvene, to look for young people who may want to consider teaching as a career and who will be role models for their peers. A student must be at least 14 years of age to participate in the program. For more information, call Sylvia Rocha at 970.380.6736.

The Cheraw Mennonite Church catered the picnic lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad, chips, and the most delicious cookies and peaches ever