January Volunteer Spotlight: Valerie Williams

This year marks the 10th year of Valerie Williams volunteering with WALC!

Val has been an awesome volunteer at our Women and Children’s program – formerly called Family Literature. For the past 10 years, she has been attending the Women and Children classes regularly every Tuesday and Thursday. During class she holds babies and plays with children so their mothers can focus on learning with no concerns about their little ones. She does puzzles, makes play-doh with the kids, organizes puppet shows, reads to the preschoolers, and much more. One of her favorite stories to tell the kids is of a doll she had donated to the program. The doll was her daughter’s, and the clothes on the doll were made by Val herself. Val has an instant comforting rapport with the kids – they love and trust her the second they see her, and she loves the kids unconditionally. Another passion Val enjoys is gardening – and she often brings fruit and vegetables from her large garden to share with the women in class.

Everyone at the Winnebago Area Literacy Council would like to thank Val for all that she has done for us and for the positive impact she has brought to the families she has helped – thank you Val!

December Learner Spotlight: Neekar Kurdy

This month we are thrilled to be celebrating Neekar Kurdy. Neekar came to us from Iraq and has been with the Winnebago Area Literacy Council since 2010. She has taken part in our English Classes, 1-1 tutoring, Women & Children’s classes AND is now a part of our Road to Work program. When Neekar’s family first relocated to Oshkosh she had to walk 45 minutes to the bus to bring her two small children to the library. Every weekend she would make the long trek and spend 5 hours trying to teach herself English while her children played. Then she found the Winnebago Area Literacy Council and everything started to change. She told me that when she first arrived in the United States “it felt like something had been pulled over my eyes and I couldn’t see any opportunities. But I learned that if you’re are nice, kind, helpful and a hard worker, another door will open for you.” That door was opened even wider when one of our most dedicated volunteers – Michelle – began taking Neekar and her children to Women and Children’s class. Her son calls it “Michelle School”, and told his pre-K teacher that “this school is pretty nice, but not as nice as Michelle School”.

Neekar began studying for her drivers license exam along with learning English, and passed on her first try. She would listen to audiobooks at night in order to study for her Citizenship test without waking her family. After 5 years in the United States she passed that test on the first try as well. Neekar also told me that even though the pandemic was hard for everyone, it opened up opportunities for her. Fox Technical College moved their English Classes online, so now she can take English Classes at night while still working full time. This month Neekar is celebrating her 90 day anniversary in her position at Christian Community Childcare Center which she found through our Road to Work Program. She loves her job – where she works with babies and toddlers. Through this job she is now taking Early Education classes online in addition to her English Classes! She told me she is constantly encouraging her friends to never give up, and to take any opportunities they can for education.

Neekar – your hardwork, dedication and positive attitude are truly an inspiration to all of us. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments over the last 13 years, and on 90 days at your job!

November Volunteer Spotlight:  Shari Englund

Volunteer Shari Englund exudes the kindness and competence that all of us strive to imitate. Her care and enthusiasm for refugees and immigrants from across the globe began even before she stepped into the Beginning English classroom. As most learners don’t drive, she makes multiple stops on her way in to pick up individuals and families at their homes. With the warmth of a good friend, she drives them to the library and shepherds them into the classroom. 

Attentive and energetic, Shari makes each person feel special and welcome during our 2 hour class. She seats herself where she can help the most: guiding newcomers in writing the alphabet, taking advanced students for reading lessons, keeping little children busy while parents practice phonics or pronunciation. 

But she also does so very much more! She adjusts to the changing pace of the class and is quick to help dramatize lessons in banking or shopping or weather.  Always warm and attentive, Shari is game for anything and everything. Shari is simply a marvel. The Literacy Council is so lucky to have her!Thank you so much for everything you do Shari!