Peninsula READS, a non-profit organization that provides essential resources to equip adult students with the knowledge and skills that are critical to successful performance in a literate society, is seeking a new executive director for the organization.
Peninsula READS employs three full-time staff members, one part-time position, and is run by a board of directors composed of four individuals. Eric Floyd, president of the board of directors, said the nonprofit is looking to fill its executive director’s position. Joyelle M. Saunders, who’s been the executive director for the past three years, is leaving at the end of June.
“We’re looking for someone who has a variety of managerial skills and business acumen to help train and develop our team, someone who’s skilled at speaking and meeting with community partners to bridge those relationships,” said Floyd.
The organization was founded as the Peninsula Literacy Council in 1968. Learners enroll in the Peninsula READS Adult Basic Literacy Program for a variety of reasons. Some are looking to enhance their day-to-day survival skills such as understanding written medical instructions. Others have reached a point where they yearn to read a book to their grandchildren or a newspaper for themselves.
“The Adult Basic Literacy Program is for people who speak English and were born in the United States but who have very low reading literacy levels, or below a fourth-grade reading level,” said Casey Lynne Guditus, program specialist with Peninsula READS. “For the most part, we’re working with adults who are reading below a first-grade level, and we match them up with volunteer tutors to work with them one-on-one to work on their literacy skills.”
The non-profit provides individual instruction in reading, writing, and math as well as small-group lessons for people who speak English as a second language. Instruction in computer literacy is also offered through the organization so that people can keep up with the information age and effectively navigate across various forms of media.
“We also offer a class on applying for citizenship in the United States and practice the civics portion of the naturalization interview as well as learners’ listening, reading, speaking skills,” said Guditus. The 12-week class also provides a question-and-answer session with an immigration attorney.
The nonprofit is 100 percent funded through grants and donations.
“We apply for various literacy-based grants and grants through different city programs in addition to holding fundraisers and participating in local giving days,” said Guditus.
Tutoring services are provided by trained volunteers who are committed to assisting adult learners reach their literacy goals.
“We are always looking for people to volunteer with us to tutor,” said Guditus. “Throughout the year, we may get up to 100 at any given time.”
All potential tutors attend an orientation session to gain knowledge about Peninsula READS and the volunteer opportunities offered to its students online and in person. Then, they complete online training through ProLiteracy, an observation requirement of tutoring sessions and a workshop on goal setting and lesson planning.
The organization is also seeking volunteers to fill other available positions such as office administrator, event committee member, computer lab assistant, and outreach representatives.
Program participants who select in-person tutoring meet with volunteers in public spaces conducive to learning. Peninsula READS has two locations. While the organization’s main office is located within City Center at Oyster Point in Newport News, it also has tutoring space at the Hampton Public Library.
Services are currently free of charge and available to residents of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and York County. Peninsula READS accepts students on a rolling-admission basis.
“Some of our classes do fall in semester schedule,” said Guditus. “Throughout the year, we serve over 200 people and close to 300 depending on the time of year. We get referrals from the school systems, adult education programs, and different social services programs.”
Peninsula READS believes that low-level literacy affects not just individuals but their families and communities as well. It’s been linked to poverty, low self-esteem, higher unemployment rates, decreased level of community involvement, and more.
Those hoping to seek more information about Peninsula READS learning services, volunteer opportunities, or the executive director job description are encouraged to visit the organization’s website or call 757-283-5776. The main office is located at 11832 Fishing Point Dr., Suite 200, in Newport News.