The Republic Bank Limited sponsored ALTA Reading Circles are an informal space for ALTA students to practice their reading with assistance from Reading Circle Guides. Reading Circles are meant to support students who need extra assistance with reading skills as ALTA community classes focus on overall literacy rather than solely reading skills.
In March, the Marketing Department at Mario’s Pizzeria contacted ALTA with the hope of supporting our literacy programme. After just one meeting, Readings and Pizzas was born! After a wildly successful Readings Under the Trees event in celebration of our 25th anniversary – #ALTA25 – we decided to bring local authors into select Reading Circles to share their work over Mario’s sponsored pizzas with ALTA tutors and student. The event was a great success at every ALTA Reading Circle Mario’s visited.
ALTA would like to thank Mario’s Pizzeria Limited for reaching out and partnering with us to make the Reading Circle an even more exciting experience for our students. They always appreciate listening to work from local authors. Having the opportunity to chat with them over yummy pizza was a plus! We also thank authors, Rafael Sookram and Lyndon Baptiste for volunteering their time to ALTA!
March 2018 was a big month for ALTA! It saw the realisation of three successful anniversary events after months of meetings and coordination. Our East Sports Day, North Readings Under the Trees and South/Central Fun, Food and Frolic Day were all well supported, ran smoothly and were enjoyed by all who attended.
ALTA Tutors and Guides in the East and Mid- East Regions kicked off the 25 anniversary celebrations with a Sports Day at the Lopinot Historical Complex ,in the scenic Lopinot Valley on Saturday March 10, 2018. Students and tutors from venues throughout the two regions participated in the fun filled events.
The St George’s College venue team emerged the overall winners having won the most events. Two of their students were awarded prizes for the best male and female participant and their tutors were triumphant in events as well. Special thanks goes to the Reading Circle guides from the Holy Saviour venue for officiating the proceedings, Sue Ann Sui Chock for the preparation and execution of the events, our master of ceremony, Bettina Dyer who did a marvelous job without a microphone, Veronica Fongyt for the opening prayer, Lystra Hazarie for her presentation on ALTA’s history and Carolyn Walker -Hepburn for managing the event. From securing the use of the facilities to relaying information about the sports to each venue, Carolyn assisted greatly!
One week later the North/North West region of ALTA tutors welcomed authors such as Michael Anthony, Lisa Allen Agostini and Judy Raymond,joined by newly published writers such as Kevin Jared Hosein, Breanne McIvor and Judith Theodore to an afternoon of Readings Under the Trees. Authors read under select trees at the Gardens and were joined by ALTA tutors and students who read both original and published pieces of work.
Members of the public were invited to come listen to the readings and contribute during the open mike sessions. Children were also welcomed as there was a special area for them with readings from children authors Jeunanne Alkins and Al Ramsawack and literacy games. It was a great afternoon and ALTA has decided to make it into an annual event.
Our final ALTA 25 event was hosted by our South/Central Tutors at Guaracara Park in Pointe a Pierre on Saturday March 24, 2018. It was a day of sharing and caring with ALTA students, present and past tutors and their friends and families. There were at least 500 people there. The day started with a look at ALTA’s history for the past 25 years and then some tutors and students sharing what ALTA meant to them. This was followed by food sampling as all the venues brought different local delicacies to share; from fish broth to roti, kurma to ‘phonic’ cupcakes – there was a lot of food! Then it was time for the games which catered to both children and adults. Tutors took traditional games and gave them a literacy twist. There was bingo, cricket, ‘make the word’ competitions. ALTA’s South/Central tutors are looking forward to more events like this in the future!
Have a read of ALTA’s annual report which was presented to the membership at the annual general meeting in October 2017. As ALTA celebrates its 25th anniversary and looks toward the next twenty five years, energy has been focussed on these three areas:
In order to spread awareness of the programme and ensure that the messages being spread are deemed as important, ALTA felt it important that the organisation remain relevant in the minds of the public. An important step in remaining relevant is establishing and maintaining a strong brand presence. All the advice received said that ALTA’s logo needed to be updated. The black and white logo served well in the largely print medium of the first 25 years, but doesn’t work as well on the screens of phones, tablets and computers. After much discussion and varied design ideas, it was Keya Marketing who came up with a logo. The logo is meant to reflect youth, vitality, relationship building, transformation and social movement.
Additionally, given economic constraints, it was important that ALTA find cost effective ways to advertise tutor recruitment, student registration and promote awareness of ALTA. This led to a stronger focus on social media networks. Putting content on social media has little impact unless you have the network to read and spread this. Building this network has been the big success of the last year. Over the past year, ALTA’s Communication Manager has created content which has caught people’s interest and gained followers in the crowded social media world.
ALTA has almost tripled the number of followers on Facebook going from 2500 followers last year to 6300 followers currently. This means that information about ALTA is more likely to be seen by persons in T&T and the diaspora without ALTA paying for them to see it. ALTA has also used Twitter to reach out to partners and other NGOs to advertise programmes, donation and volunteering opportunities and create linkages to maximize reach. In the past year ALTA has gained 84 new followers. Instagram has also been used to share current happenings at ALTA – in the past year the following on Instagram has also increased.
ALTA’s strategic networking online has not wavered offline networking. A strong relationship with Movie Towne has resulted in the student recruitment ad being played in their cinemas for more than a year and Caribbean Cinemas 8 supported the recently concluded Student Registration campaign by playing advertisements in their cinemas gratis in August 2017. ALTA is greatly appreciative of the role both the Citizen Security Programme and Pepper Advertising played in the creation and dissemination of communication material. The new relationship with Digicel Foundation will also enable the production and sharing of vital communication material with larger more diverse audiences in the coming months.
Additionally, this year ALTA continued with the aim of year-round student outreach. Regional Coordinators took up the challenge to conduct at least two instances of outreach in their regions every month. ALTA Ambassadors along with Regional Coordinators conducted numerous instances of Outreach at health centres, schools, workplaces, community meetings, youth groups and churches. If you know of any community event which ALTA can attend and spread awareness of the programme, please do not hesitate to contact any ALTA office.
Every year ALTA conducts two campaigns; student recruitment and tutor recruitment. In order to stay relevant and minimalize cost, this year ALTA took the decision to focus communication messages on radio and social media and didn’t have print ads. This resulted in successful and cost effective Tutor Recruitment and Student Registration campaigns in the past year. The Student Registration campaign themed “Live Your Best Life with ALTA” used radio scripts from 2016 (funded by CSP) as well as ALTA Ambassador John Bascombe, an ALTA Graduate who is currently enrolled in law school.
Preliminary figures for this academic year indicate that 1,451 students are attending classes, 641 of whom are new students. This figure exceeds the 1,179 as of this period last year and 1,142 of 2015. ALTA continues to accept students into classes with available space, via phone or walk-ins. This shows that as much as ALTA continues to battle stigma, the number of students making the decision to come to the community classes is still growing.
The continued support of the fifty ALTA classes around the country comes from ALTA’s class sponsors for 2016/17 – Republic Bank, United Way of Trinidad and Tobago, The National Gas Company of T&T, Price Philanthropies Foundation, Phoenix Park Gas Processors, First Caribbean International Bank, Kapok and Mr. Hamilton Padmore.
Unfortunately this year ALTA’s Cascade class was discontinued because of the repeated small student numbers. In 1994, the St Ann’s/Cascade Motivational Programme became the second venue to host an ALTA class. ALTA thanks Noreen De La Rosa, board member of this centre, for not only providing this venue for 20 plus years but for also teaching and coordinating this class.
Aside from community classes where students focus on their literacy, ALTA also provides a Spelling Programme for students who wish to focus on this aspect of their literacy growth. This programme continues its steady growth for yet another year with the Port of Spain venue having the largest number with well over 40 students. The demand was so great that past tutors had to be called back to active duty.
Last year, ALTA was able to successfully restart the programme in Grenada. Fortunately classes continue there with students completing their first academic year in early December followed by the recruitment of new students by the end of the year. Their new academic year will thus begin in January 2018.
With over fifty classes around the country, it is important to have a clear organizational structure. Each region in Trinidad is managed by ALTA Regional Coordinators who all report to ALTA’s CEO. This year ALTA has taken the decision to implement a National Coordinator who will manage all ALTA programmes around the country. This ensures that the CEO can focus on internal matters and ALTA Online. Lystra Hazarie has been appointed ALTA’s new National Coordinator. Lystra will be immersed in all aspects of programme development and management in the coming years.
For the first time this year, ALTA decided to advertise the NALIS Youth Lit Programme for youth 10-15 via social media. There was an overwhelming response to the registration with 229 students assessed. Unfortunately, given resource constraints, many of the students could not be accommodated. The response however shows that the ALTA brand is strong and that there is an overwhelming unmet need for ALTA among those in the 10-15 age group.
In order to keep tutors and the ALTA programme up to date, every year ALTA conducts refresher training for continuing tutors, as well as a Tutor meeting with current tutors to update them on all things ALTA. This year ALTA welcomed guest speaker Cathryn Kelshall of the Dyslexia Association who did a presentation on Dyslexia in the ALTA classroom. As a mentor to ALTA from the early years, Cathyrn matched research and teaching approaches to ALTA’s tutor and student experience. Tutors got a better of understanding of their dyslexic students and why particular activities are necessary in the ALTA classroom. Based on Cathryn’s advice, a new spelling element was introduced at this year’s refresher tutor training and implemented in ALTA classrooms for this academic year.
For the past 25 years, ALTA has committed to training at most 100 tutors annually. This year, 95 participants started the training course and 86 successfully completed the sessions. These tutors are currently completing their first term of teaching at classes around the country.
As ALTA looks toward the future, one of the things that became apparent was that the organisation needed a strategic plan. In April 2017, ALTA was fortunate to be guided by professionals from Deloitte who helped the management team develop a strategic plan. Ravi Rampersad, Marshall Ogle and Salaina Jagroop from Deloitte conducted two gratis workshops with ALTA which led to a now implemented plan which will guide ALTA’s work for the next three years.
Republic Bank-sponsored ALTA Online is ALTA’s signature project, the most innovative product since the development of the ALTA programme itself, in that it has the potential to bring reading instruction not just to Trinidad but the whole Caribbean and beyond – indeed anywhere reached by the internet.
Mid-year design and staff changes meant that ALTA adjusted the timeline, so the goal for October 2017 was to produce the first three lessons in Book 1 for Level 1. ALTA is proud to have achieved this major milestone in this difficult project. Testing of lessons 1-3 by the extended tutor team is complete, so the team is now set to move on to external testing. ALTA Online has been a moving target, however the challenges have served as the building blocks of a product that will better meet the needs of present and future students.
ALTA looks forward to launching ALTA Online in the near future!
In celebration of Alta’s 25th anniversary, Alta students around the country were asked to write about the impact the organisation has had on their lives. Since 1992, Alta has provided classes around the country for thousands of Trinidadians who struggle with reading and writing. Alta students enrol in the programme at many different levels of literacy and leave when they have accomplished their literacy goals. While it is difficult to manage work and family life alongside Alta classes, students continue to persevere and in all cases see changes in their lives after attending Alta classes. In the coming weeks, Alta will share their pieces through this column. This week, three students from the St George’s College, Barataria venue share how Alta has impacted their lives.
Student Name: Calvin
“For the past 17 years, I have been a stubborn mule. I keep going back and forth [with] learning to read and spell. Alta has given me that opportunity and [now] I am going ahead. I am very slow in learning the sounds of the vowels and the sight words. Alta is the best programme for people like me, who do not have the patience to learn in school. Yes it can be embarrassing to be an adult who cannot read or spell, but if you want to better your life, [this] programme is giving us that opportunity once more in life. For 17 years, I have been seeing classes starting off full and at the end of the year only three or four remain. Alta will push you forward in life but you will have to know if you want to go forward.
Sometimes it is good to [repeat a level] to make sure you understand the work because you do not want to drop out at another level and throw away the opportunity Alta is giving you. So come aboard people and enjoy the opportunity. I can guarantee that if you stick to it you will enjoy it at the end of the race.”
Student Name: Ricardo
“I felt I could never take part in my own business. Now that I am going to Alta I feel more in control of my job. At work I am being asked to help other employee fill out their forms. I feel much more helpful and I want to give back to Alta by spreading the good news to some of my staff who needs help.”
Student Name: Natisha
“Before I came to Alta I was not able to read and write [or] sound out words. I used to feel so sad [and] hopeless. I never think I will ever get the chance to go back to school until I saw a post on Facebook; “ALTA learn to read and write.” I start to jump up and down; I was so excited and happy. I was finally getting a second chance. Alta changed my life in so many ways, I am spelling much better [and] reading and writing much better than before. Also I am sounding out words I never thought I [would] be able to sound out by myself. Thanks to all the hard working teachers at Alta. ”
In celebration of Alta’s 25th anniversary, Alta students around the country were asked to write about the impact the organisation has had on their lives. Since 1992, Alta has provided classes around the country for thousands of Trinidadians who struggle with reading and writing. Alta students enrol in the programme at many different levels of literacy and leave when they have accomplished their literacy goals. While it is difficult to manage work and family life alongside Alta classes, students continue to persevere and in all cases see changes in their lives after attending Alta classes. In the coming weeks, Alta will share their pieces through this column. This week, two students from the NALIS Port of Spain venue share how Alta has impacted their lives.
Student Name: Kernal
Class Venue: NALIS
“In the beginning I was afraid and nervous to let anyone outside of my family know that I’m having problems reading and spelling. So I wasn’t willing to seek out any help. One day my sister was going through Facebook and saw an article someone wrote about Alta and she forwarded the link to me and she encourage me to join Alta (which I did).
On the first day of Alta class I went into the class room nervous because I did not know what to expect, but when the tutors came in the classroom they introduce themselves and they welcome us with open arms and they didn’t treat any of us differently because of our reading problems, but instead they treated all of us like family.
Each week on Mondays and Wednesdays between the hours of 9am to 11am all the students are like brothers and sisters and the tutors are like our parents who just want their children to do well and succeed in life.
I’ve benefitted so far from the Alta classes because now I’m a little more confident in myself and now I know once I complete the full course I’ll be able to move on and do over some CXC subjects, staring with English. I’m 25 years of age and I have a son that looks up to me so I need to better myself as an individual in order for me to raise a good man. My dream is to own my own business and also to help out people who have problems reading and writing, just as how Alta helps me. I’ll advise anyone to join Alta at once because it will make a difference in their lives.”
Name – A. Roberts
Venue – NALIS
“Alta changed my life significantly in every way; I had problems with pronouncing some words properly. Alta taught me how to break down words and how to use syllables so I could pronounce and spell a little better. I was taught also to write better, read stories etc. The teachers have a lot of patience. They make sure that you understand everything they taught. I am happy that I made the right choice to attend Alta class. Thank you to my tutors.”
Since the foundation of the Adult Literacy Tutors Association in 1992, the local NGO has been guided by a strong management team and a Board of Directors. Past and present members of ALTA’s Board have helped to shape the Association into the strong, impactful organisation it is today.
The ALTA team recently welcomed two new members to its Board of Directors, Amol Golikeri and Cassandra Ramkerrysingh. Their wealth of knowledge and experience in a plethora of fields make them an invaluable addition to the current board which is comprised of:
Amol Golikeri recently retired as Assistant General Manager at First Citizens Asset Management Limited with responsibility for the Investment Management, Investment Operations and Marketing Departments. Mr. Golikeri has over 25 years of experience in the financial sector encompassing asset management, merchant banking, corporate banking, risk management, treasury management and financial services, having spent the last thirteen years exclusively in asset management. He joined the First Citizens group in September 2001 after holding key management positions at Intercommercial Bank, Citibank and RBTT Bank. Mr. Golikeri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and an MBA in Finance from New York University. Amol is also a first year ALTA Tutor at the UWI St. Augustine venue.
Cassandra Ramkerrysingh is a transformation specialist with over 30 years’ experience. She has led complex institutional strengthening projects for Governments, Ministries, Utilities, and Private and Public Sector organisations toward performance improvement, growth and development. Central to these transformation projects was the design and implementation of efficient and effective processes and systems, and adult training to effect sustainable culture change. Several of these targeted socio-economic reform. She has worked primarily in the areas of education and social development, governance and financial management – all relevant to ALTA. She has proven experience in facilitating dialogue with Ministers and Senior Leadership, International Development Agencies, NGOs and community groups.
Cassandra is also experienced in Financial and Risk Based/Value for Money/Performance Auditing and has worked in several countries. She holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Warwick University, UK, a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Mathematics from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She is a Project Management Professional (PMP) with Project Management Institute (PMI).
The Association welcomes our two new board members and anticipates mutually beneficial relationships as we work together to empower adults through literacy.
Here’s a contribution from our Communications Manager on her experience sitting in on an ALTA class.
“I recently sat in on an Alta class at our Belmont location to get some footage for a video and ended up staying longer than I had anticipated. It was one of the best things that could have happened. As Communications Manager I work on ‘the other side of things.’ I’m primarily in charge of disseminating information to our tutor network and target market and while I have a great understanding of what Alta is about, how the programme is run and the incredible impact it has had over the years, nothing beats experiencing something first hand.
What struck me first that day was the diversity in the classroom. I think when most people imagine an Alta class they think of students in their late 30’s and older, but there were women and men from 16 to 65 years old, not just sitting in the same class, but working together, helping each other with exercises, reading the newspapers together and encouraging each other.
During the exercises that day, the class learned about words like rope where the silent ‘e’ at the end of the word results in a long ‘o’ sound. This made me think about my own experience with learning to read which I don’t remember. The class went through all the words like rope and then others like ‘come’ where this rule does not apply. It made me think of how difficult it must be to remember all of these rules. In that moment I was in awe of every single student in that classroom. Making the decision to come back into the classroom as an adult is a daring one – especially for students who had negative experiences with education when they were younger. Sticking it through the Alta programme and committing to coming to class twice a week for two hours to improve their reading and writing skills, while also managing other life commitments is a great achievement.
Unfortunately due to stigma surrounding poor literacy skills in society, many look down on Alta students. Last week as I sat in on the class, I really could not be prouder of them- they’re all heroes and heroines in their own way. The Alta programme is unique; it really is the answer for anyone who struggles with reading, writing or spelling. I now understand what our tutors mean when they say they leave their Alta classes feeling refreshed and fulfilled. ”
In celebration of Alta’s 25th anniversary, the Association plans to host a series of events in the month of March. Since 1992, Alta has provided free reading and writing classes to adults around the country. This has resulted in an Association of over 250 tutors, thousands of students and over 50 venues around Trinidad. Due to the size of the organisation, Alta operates in regions with a coordinator spearheading all Alta programmes and decision making in the different regions. The regions have decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary in their own way.
Alta’s first event was a Sports Day, held last Saturday March 10, 2018 from 9AM-6PM at the Lopinot Historic Complex. This event was hosted by the East and Mid-East Regions and catered specifically to Alta students and tutors in this region. It was a day of competitive and non-competitive fun among both tutors and students from Alta’s East Trinidad classes. The Alta programme encourages at least one outing per academic year which should stimulate a writing lesson for students. As the East region has often done this as a regional event, their sports day was welcomed by students and tutors alike.
The second event will be an afternoon of ‘Readings Under the Trees’. This event will be hosted by Alta’s North region this Saturday March 17, 2018 from 2PM – 5:30PM at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Port of Spain. Well known authors such as Michael Anthony, Lisa Allen Agostini and Judy Raymond will be joined by newly published writers such as Kevin Jared Hosein, Breanne McIvor and Judith Theodore. Members of the public are invited to come listen to readings by these authors, as well as Alta tutors and students. Children are also welcomed as there will be a special area for them with appropriate readings from authors and literacy games. Alta asks that all attendees walk with drinks, eats and mats or blankets as we celebrate.
The final event will be hosted by ALTA’s South and Central regions and will take the form of a Fun, Food and Frolic Day. The event which is also open to the public will be held on Saturday March 24, 2017 at Guaracara Park, Pointe a Pierre from 10AM-4PM. The event will be partly sponsored by Mario’s Pizzeria Limited who will be there with giveaways, games, their mascot and prizes for winners of the various games! The different Alta venues in South and Central Trinidad will be distributing samples of food and playing literacy-centred games, all with a literacy theme.
Alta looks forward to the celebration of the organisation in the coming weeks and encourages members of the public to join Alta tutors and students at ‘Readings Under the Trees’ in Port of Spain on Saturday March 17th and the Fun, Food and Frolic Day in Pointe a Pierre on Saturday March 24th, 2018.
Monday morning blues after busy weekend lime,
Sort out cards, read over notes, prepare for Alta time.
Traffic’s bad, it’s wet outside, a hundred things to do.
But my students come because they know I’ll be there too.
“Good Morning Miss”, comes from a welcoming face,
A sense of purpose tells me I’m in the right place.
A greeting, some chat, cards on the table,
It’s a good place to come; people do what they are able.
Class starts, heads bow and brows furrow,
Tutors quietly help, there is hope for tomorrow.
Topics are discussed while ideas are shared.
What would happen if nobody cared?
A bag of fruit from someone’s yard,
A smile for mastering something that’s hard.
We get our thanks in many ways.
For knowing we are helping make better days.
There’s no us and them, we are all just people,
We teach them letters, they teach life’s struggle.
If we can make a difference and hear what they say,
Shouldn’t we do what we can in our own small way?
By: Judith Affoo, Alta Tutor
Judith Affoo is one of Alta’s stalwart tutors and the Regional Coordinator for all Alta venues in North West Trinidad. Judith’s words in the poem above echo the sentiment of many tutors who come to Alta to teach adults to read and write. While they do not receive financial compensation and finding time to tutor twice a week is sometimes difficult, it is well worth it!
There are only three weeks left to sign up to be an Alta Tutor this year! Interested persons should have a Grade I or II CSEC English (or equivalent) and be able to commit to teaching an Alta class twice a week for two hours each time, from September 2018- July 2019.
If you have the time, Alta tutors over the years have all said that their experience tutoring has not only been incredibly rewarding but also an eye-opening experience. Here are the six steps you should take if you’d like to become a certified Alta tutor:
STEP ONE: Make contact
A simple phone call or email to one of Alta’s three offices to express interest in volunteering and have questions answered is the first step to becoming a volunteer. Persons calling can also schedule to attend an interview in Belmont (624-2582), Arima (664-2582) or San Fernando (653-4656).
STEP TWO: Interview
Volunteer tutors at Alta are unpaid, but no experience is necessary to become a volunteer. Volunteers must have Grade 1 or 2 in English and be able to commit to teach for an academic year. Interviews allow an opportunity to meet long-serving Alta members and get a better ‘feel’ for the organisation.
STEP THREE: Observe
Volunteer applicants get the privilege of meeting our students when they are invited to observe a class in session for 8 consecutive visits. Observation is a prerequisite for Alta’s annual Tutor Training Course.
STEP FOUR: Train
ALTA provides training for all tutor volunteers. At the end of the observation period, volunteers will be asked to contractually agree to commit to teaching at an Alta class in September (which immediately follows training) before they can attend training. Training is a very important period on the ALTA calendar, and is done over six weeks between April/May. Training gives volunteers the skills necessary to deliver the Alta Programme.
STEP FIVE: Teach
Volunteers who complete the training will choose a class venue where they will begin their year of volunteer service. Teaching is the practical component of Alta’s Tutor Training Course and volunteers must complete 150 contact hours of teaching, or an academic year to be certified as an adult literacy tutor. Newly trained tutors are placed with an experienced tutor to team teach at a venue of their choice.
STEP SIX: Certify
Completing an academic year as an Alta tutor is an accomplishment to be celebrated and each year certificates are awarded to volunteers completing their year of service at our Annual General Meeting. Certified tutors can then become members of the Association.
Alta looks forward to hearing from you!
Many persons know someone who needs Alta – it may be someone you work with, someone you meet while running errands or they may be a friend or family member. Fortunately, there is still space in Alta classes around the country for them but sometimes it’s a difficult topic to broach – especially with someone you may not be familiar with. How should you tell them about Alta? Last week, Alta shared some guidelines for potential situations which may be helpful when speaking to non-readers about Alta classes. Today, the column explores two other situations which can assist.