© 2024 WMRA and WEMC
WMRA : More News, Less Noise WEMC: The Valley's Home for Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Teaching English in the Valley with Skyline Literacy

Skyline Promo
Skyline Literacy
Class at Skyline Literacy
Skyline Logo
Skyline Literacy
Skyline Literacy's Logo

Skyline Literacy is a local non-profit in Harrisonburg that has been providing literacy and English language education for local adult learners for over thirty years. WMRA's Chris Boros recently spoke to Cynthia Prieto, former principal of Harrisonburg High School, who also works with the literacy program. Chris asked Cynthia about Skyline Literacy.

Cynthia Prieto: Skyline Literacy is a nonprofit, and I'm on the board. The reason that I'm on the board is because I believe access to anything is about education. What Skyline Literacy does is educate adults in various literacies. I mean, we're most known for learning English, and the reason that that is important is because it changes your quality and opportunities in life. So I'm talking everything from being able to get a promotion and a job, being to do your job most effectively and efficiently, to being able to navigate life. If you know how to ask for something in a store or if you need assistance and you know who to ask for how to ask, then you are much better able to have a better quality of life. So Skyline Literacy has volunteer tutors, and they work on financial literacy, literacy, high school Equivalency exams. So it's a GED exam, citizenship exam. Again, citizenship opens up so many more doors. And so the point is, all those literacies will make somebody much more capable and much more productive, in our community

WMRA: Are we dealing with people who English is their second language?

CP: Correct. Non English speakers looking to assimilate into a community that's predominantly English speaking.

WMRA: And how did you get involved in this?

Cynthia Prieto
Skyline Literacy
Cynthia Prieto

CP: When I was principal at the high school, we had access to a lot of the families, and the adults in the family did not always speak English. Harrisonburg City schools, fortunately, is incredibly generous in funding homeschool liaisons and translation services. But the access can be improved if you send documents home that somebody can read if you ask for a conference, and that person can participate in the conference rather than completely depending on a translator. Education has always been important to me. Literacy has always been important to me. I also value the fact that as a nonprofit, it has anywhere between 40 and 90 tutors and their volunteers. Last year, we served 315 students. It makes an impact, and the word spreads. The connections in the community increase.

WMRA: Can you tell me about a story of someone who's gone through the program and has been a success story?

CP: Oh, gosh, there are lots of success stories. We have students that have come here and have been in the country for many years and not learned English and not been successful in, for example, the school system. And then when they get a job, the job says, the only way to get promotions is to pass these tests or to have these interviews. And then this person comes to Skyline. Many are really capable within a year and a half, which is amazing.

Creative Commons

WMRA: That’s pretty quick.

CP: I could not learn if I went off and wanted to learn Japanese or something. There's no way in a year and a half. But they become very capable in a year and a half, two years, and then they get those promotions, and they're able to provide for their families even more. And so we set up in Skyline Services that provides childcare, and that way the parents come with their children. The children are taken aside. They're taught to read, they're taught to play, they're taught to socialize, while the parent is learning. So we're supporting a parent who works all day but has done childcare all day or school all day and now has to find childcare at night. So we provide that childcare volunteers. The kids are seeing the parent learn. So this is an influence that is like, oh, mom and dad are also picking up books, also wanting to learn, also taking their studies seriously. Again, you're modeling, and it's a win win. There's no negative there.

WMRA: How do you find the volunteers to do the tutoring?

CP: Just through PR and through word of mouth and through each of us that are involved with Skyline in any way. Not all of them are retired educators.

Skyline Literacy Class
Skyline Literacy
Skyline Literacy Class

WMRA: That was my next question. Do you have to be an educator? Or what credentials does someone need to have to be a volunteer?

CP: They train the tutors.

WMRA: What is the most rewarding experience for you being involved with this program?

CP: Watching somebody the bulb goes off and they're like, I just had a conversation. You're like, yeah, you did, totally. And it was really cool. Or having former students come back and say, I would like to tutor, and you're like, that's amazing, because we all know if you're teaching it, that means you really have mastered it. And so that is so fulfilling to have them say, I want to give back to my community. And so I'm going to recruit the people that I know in my church or my mosque or my community centers, and I want to teach them too.

WMRA: Cynthia Prieto from Skyline Literacy, thank you so much for your time today. It's a beautiful program.

CP: You're so welcome. I'm a believer. It is a beautiful program.

WMRA: Thank you.

Chris Boros is WMRA’s Program Director and local host from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday.