New Literacy Zone to offer language skills courses

02/15/2014 11:00 AM |
BOCES COURTESY PHOTO | Holding the big scissors is Sister Margaret Smyth of North Fork Spanish Apostolate at 220 Roanoke Ave. Riverhead.

BOCES COURTESY PHOTO | Holding the big scissors is Sister Margaret Smyth of North Fork Spanish Apostolate at 220 Roanoke Ave. Riverhead.

A new program in Riverhead is hoping to provide “a pathway out of poverty,” helping struggling Riverhead families and residents receive the education they need to get ahead.

Two weeks ago, Eastern Suffolk BOCES opened the doors to the state’s 51st Literacy Zone — a state-funded reform initiative aimed at aiding the community’s poorest — by helping residents gain English language proficiency.

Riverhead’s Literacy Zone, located at the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, will offer a variety of courses to meet the literacy needs of residents, from birth through adulthood.

The center will operate as a collaboration between ESBOCES staff, the Riverhead School District, Riverhead Library, Riverhead Senior Center and Suffolk County Department of Labor — just to name a few. Executive director and founder of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, Sister Margret Smyth — well known for her commitment helping residents who struggle with English — will serve as an educator at the Literacy Zone.

As a matter of fact, Sister Margaret said, an employee funded through the program will operate out of the Apostolate, located at 220 Roanoke Ave.

Though the employee hasn’t started working full-time yet, Sister Margaret said about 20 people have still signed up for the Literacy Zone courses.

“The idea behind it is to really offer a service for people, particularly in language, and our office usually has tons of people going through here” who could use those services, she said.

Classes will include everything from after-school enrichment programs for children to workforce development programs that include work site tours, job shadowing, internships and apprenticeship opportunities for adults.

The framework enables multiple local outreach groups to reduce duplication of services and enhance and expand supportive services to help residents overcome barriers, according to Barbara Egloff, who serves as divisional administrator of career, technology, and adult education for ESBOCES.

“We are looking forward to working with Sister Margret,” ESBOCES spokesperson Nancy Lenz. “She is a staple in this community.”

The center is expected to grow its resources and expand by the start of next school year, Ms. Lenz said.

“We are just getting started,” she said.

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