Mercy Learning Center, founded in 1987, is a non-sectarian, basic literacy and life skills training program for low-income women (primarily mothers) who read at a level between 0 and 8th grade. The Center operates two core programs during the year from September to June, a full time Intensive Study Program and a part time one-on-one tutoring program, at no cost to the student.
With the help of over 140 trained volunteer reading and/or math tutors, the Center reaches over 250 women from the greater Bridgeport, Connecticut area. Each dedicated volunteer meets with his/her student(s) twice weekly for two-hour sessions. The program curriculum consists of reading, writing, speaking, spelling, math and map skills taught in a one-on-one or small group setting. Instruction is conducted with the goal of preparing students to enter Mercy Learning Center’s GED program and/or develop employability skills that will allow them to enter a job market to which they have previously had only a marginal attachment.
The students enrolled in Mercy Learning Center’s tutoring program come from over 43 countries and speak over 23 different languages. Many of them have come to the United States to escape dangers in their country of origin or in search of a better life for their children.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a 16-square-mile urban city located in Fairfield County with a population of 139,529. Of the women who enter this program, many of them exist at or below the poverty level. Those who are employed hold jobs such as housekeepers, home health aides, or waitresses. Because of the success and confidence gained in this tutoring program, many students have earned U.S. citizenship status, become better advocates for their children’s need in school, received their GED and pursued higher education at the local community college and beyond, or taken on roles as neighborhood leaders.
From retired schoolteachers to homemakers to business professionals, the Center’s volunteer tutors are people of varied backgrounds and ages. Ed is a local executive who has a desire to give back to the community. Marlene, a young university professor, delights in teaching two classes of 15 students who are just learning to speak English. Jan, a retired school administrator, is a cancer survivor who vowed to help others when she regained her health. Edna, who has served the Center for over 17 years, faithfully arrives on Tuesday and Friday mornings, even though she is in her mid-eighties.
These are only a sampling of the many devoted volunteers who enthusiastically motivate the adult learners educated in the tutoring program. Their common interest is a conviction to support Mercy Learning Center’s mission to live its motto, “Educate a woman, educate a family.” It is their collective desire to give of their time and energy in an effort to break the cycle of poverty by promoting literacy in the community. Such a fine group of generous individuals are living examples of good citizenship and are a tribute to promoting diversity in our country.