The Chamber's main regional adult English literacy program is the Latino Educational Empowerment Through Reading (LEER). The acronym LEER means, “to read” in Spanish and we think it is the acronym that best defines our workforce development objectives for adult immigrants.
A companion educational project called Dare to Reach, Excel and Achieve More (DREAM) that is either a stand-alone program or a continuation of LEER, has an English acronym since participants are expected to read, write, speak and understand English with a moderate to high level of proficiency.
Briefly, the design of the LEER program is as follows:
- Phase 1. Establish an Advisory Committee that would includes participating adult literacy nonprofits, businesses, community organizations and the Chamber. Select a city or county to establish the first program;
- Phase 2. Simultaneously, initiate a news media and grassroots campaign to recruit new English-speaking or English-Spanish bilingual volunteer of any racial or ethnic background (including Hispanics) and train them to become tutors. For instance, presently the Literacy Council of Frederick County has 20 “students” waiting for “teachers” and the waiting list in other jurisdictions is even longer. In our experience the availability of volunteers will be very likely the rate-limiting step in accomplishing LEER objectives;
- Phase 3. Recruit “students” through churches, appartment buildings, grocery stores and restaurants;
- Phase 4. Roll out the program to neighboring counties served vy the Chamber in order to create a unified, self-sustaining regional program in English literacy for Hispanic immigrants; and,
- Phase 5. Continuation of the LEER Program. After completion of the English literacy training at a functional level (reading, writing, listening and understanding) the Chamber will host an annual “graduation ceremony.” Then, in conjunction with other educational organizations (community colleges, public schools, etc.), the Chamber will encourage “LEER graduates” and other non-citizen residents to enter the DREAM program and earn a GED certificate and/ or apply for admission to a technical or academic degree program, as well as participate in preparatory courses leading to U.S. citizenship and civic and community participation.
The Chamber will continue to seek sponsors to help fund this initiative and to the extent possible also help raise funds for the participating adult literacy nonprofit groups in the region.