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.
Bank Info: The Adult Literacy Tutors Association, Republic Bank Limited, Elerslie Plaza, Acc No: 3405028337401
On November 1, 2017 the Adult Literacy Tutors Association launched a brand new logo. The launch of the logo, which was designed by Keya Marketing, is the first of a number of events planned for ALTA’s twenty fifth anniversary. Celebrations begin this month and will run until September 2018. The logo which is meant to reflect youth, vitality, relationship building, transformation and social movement has been well received by ALTA’s membership.
The desire to remain relevant in the minds of the public, led to ALTA taking many steps in the past year to establish and maintain a strong brand presence. All the advice received said that the logo needed to be updated. The black and white logo which many have come to know, served ALTA well in the largely print medium of the first 25 years. However it doesn’t work as well on the screens of phones, tablets and computers. The teal and orange in the new logo are colours which stand out on these devices and reflect the youthfulness and vitality which this logo is meant to represent.
As ALTA turns twenty five, the three main goals are to develop ALTA Online, strategic planning and spreading awareness of ALTA. The third goal will be achieved when ALTA becomes a household name. While the program is known very well locally and even regionally, a lot of work still needs to be done with strengthening brand awareness and ensuring relevance in the minds of the public.
Additionally, the anniversary will be marked by celebrations in all regions. Rather than hosting a national event, the seven regions of ALTA – North East, North West, Mid East, East, South West, South East and Central – will host events for tutors, students and members in their respective regions. There is also a plan to host Tutor Recognition Awards for members who have served with ALTA for a number of years and those who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The anniversary will also see the launch of the highly anticipated Republic Bank sponsored ALTA Online programme. ALTA Online will bring the ALTA programme to anyone with an internet connection. People 9+ will be able to access this online programme to strengthen their literacy skills via their computers, tablets or phones.
ALTA looks forward to another twenty five years of empowering adults through our literacy programmes and remains grateful to all sponsors who continue to support ALTA’s initiatives.