Our September spotlight of the month is Cathie. Cathie is a new WALC employee, and she oversees our newly launched transportation program. Cathie has been taking the bus her entire life, and firmly believes in the value of public transportation to the overall community. As a result, she was ready to jump into this project from the moment we approached her with the idea.
Our mission as a literacy council is clear: we strengthen our diverse community by developing and delivering free learner-centered literacy programs for adults and their families. So why are we delving into transportation? Because our unofficial mission is even more simple: Eliminating barriers. We cannot deliver our literacy programs if the learners cannot get to class. We were very lucky to find two people who were equally passionate about tackling this program, Cathie, and Tina. Right now, they
develop an individualized transportation plan for each of our applicable learners. They begin by meeting the learner at our class and assessing their needs as well as building a relationship. They find out the needs of this individual learner – what business and locations they need to access in addition to our classes. At that point they scout the routes – personally traveling the route from the learner’s home to those locations making detailed notes of landmarks, potential issues, and comparing the anticipated schedule to the reality of the trip. At that point they take the learner to acquire their bus pass and schedule the first ride along with them. They meet the learner at their home, walk with them to the bus stop, and travel to their destination and back. They do this multiple times per destination, until the learner is confident enough in their transportation skills to switch roles. At that point they become the teachers, leading Cathie or Tina along the route from start to finish, and back!
Cathie said she loves this program because she personally gets to help create independence for the people she works with. It’s visibly empowering for these families to gain the ability to navigate their new city on their own with confidence. She said that the community really seems to appreciate the program – bus drivers and patrons are welcoming and helpful.
Cathie has had the advantage of seeing changes in our local transportation system firsthand. She watched when the city bus system transformed into Go Transit, and the upgrades that came with it. She is hopeful that as the bus system improves more people in our community will use it. For our purposes at the literacy council, it would be ideal to eventually have as many as 10 casual part-time employees that are familiar and comfortable enough with the routes and the system to train our learners. As with all programs – the need ebbs and flows with the community. If the idea of this program speaks to you, and you would be interested in helping as a bus trainer please let us know! In the meantime, we would like to thank Cathie, Tina, and our partners at Go Transit for making this program possible!