Literacy Council of the Black Hills lends a helping hand


The ability to read, write and speak the English language can open up countless opportunities for people everywhere.

That’s why the Literacy Council of the Black Hills gives a helping hand to those who want to learn it.

About one year ago, Alejandra Hight moved to the U.S. from Bogata, Columbia, where she had a successful career.

At first, it was difficult to even hold conversations with people around her.

“I’m so excited for learning this language because I would like to continue with my career. I am a lawyer, so for me it’s so hard to start again but this is my big challenge,” Alejandra Hight, student at Literacy Council of the Black Hills, said.

Then, she heard about the Literacy Council of the Black Hills where she is able to learn from a tutor one-on-one.

“But I’m feeling better because at least I can talk, I can express my ideas, I can understand but it’s a process, I need patience,” Hight said.

She has been a student with the Literacy Council for almost one year with her tutor, Carol Bell.

“It’s a great program because it’s hard for the people, learn other language, learn other cultures, different situations. That’s positive because in this program I have a friend, my tutor is a close friend, she helped me in different ways,” Hight said.

Bell has been a tutor for three years. She says each student’s level of English is different. On this day, Bell and Hight are running through flashcards.

“We play it by ear, my current student is taking a two morning a week English class and so sometimes we are going over homework that she has to do, that she has already done and maybe going over that, if she is unsure whether she did it correctly or whether she needed any help,” Carol Bell, tutor for Literacy Council of the Black Hills, said.

Bell says one of the reasons she enjoys volunteering at the Literacy Council is making her students feel more comfortable living here.

“Seeing them be able to connect with their community, their neighbor, with other people, with English, I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I have helped them,” Bell said.

And because she knows the feeling all too well.

“I have been in other cities and other countries where I didn’t speak the language and I know how alone that can feel and how uncomfortable. It just draws me to help them,” Bell said.

The Literacy Council of the Black Hills is a non-profit organization that has been around for the last 30 years.

“There are two types of students, one is the American adults who can speak well but they don’t read well and the other kind are immigrants who could be very well educated in their countries but they are speaking and listening English and need improvement,” Jin Washington, Program Coordinator for Literacy Council of the Black Hills, said.

Right now, they have about 40 students and the same number of tutors. They usually meet at the Public Library in downtown Rapid City and at the student’s convenience. The program can also help improve resumes or practice interview technique.

“Whatever you need, our tutors are waiting to help you with what you need. That’s what I think is very unique and special about our program,” Washington said.

“It’s not just English, sometimes I feel bad because I feel alone, so you need a partner you need to talk about how you are feeling so yeah I’m very grateful with this program because the opportunity opened my feelings, opened my mind,” Hight said.

The Literacy Council of the Black Hills says lessons are completely confidential.

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