ALTA in 2020 – Sustaining and Building the Core

ALTA in 2020 – Sustaining and Building the Core

i Mar 25th No Comments by

On Saturday 13 February, 2021, ALTA fulfilled its annual obligation to members and stakeholders by hosting its first ever virtual Annual General Meeting. Our foray into the world of virtual hosting was a success: all told, 42 members participated in the Zoom meeting, including Mrs. Zalayhar Hassanali who has never once missed an AGM in all of her years as ALTA’s Patron.

We look back on a year of adaptation for Alta, through the theme of “Sustaining and Building ALTA’s Core,” in the form of the AGM presentation by Board Chairman, Nigel Baptiste. This week we feature the first part of the chairman’s address.

Chairman’s Address

2020 – what a year, a year to forget for many of us! For ALTA it was a year of innovation and a year in which ALTA’s strength came to the fore. In 2020, the ALTA Programme successfully transitioned from classroom to virtual with two big achievements:

  • The first was planned – the pilot of ALTA Online
  • The second was driven by the pandemic – ALTA-V classes delivered by Zoom

Both these achievements, ALTA Online & ALTA-V, owe a great deal to two sponsors: the National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago and Republic Bank Limited.

In May, ALTA was honoured to receive the NGC Above and Beyond award.

This award came with funding for three ALTA projects of which two were essential components of ALTA Online and ALTA-V.

  • The ALTA Online Pilot brought ALTA Online to more than a hundred users
  • Stand Tall – I am ALTA awareness and student recruitment campaign attracted students to ALTA-V.

The Stand Tall – Above and Beyond award has helped see ALTA through the difficult pandemic year. Thank you NGC for this award to our students, our volunteer tutors, our nation.

This year was one of high achievement for ALTA, particularly as it relates to the Alta Online pilot, which has been in the making for over six years. A special thank you must be given to Application Support Engineer Sylvia Clarke who has been integral to the success of this initiative. The pilot’s successful rollout is attributed to the wider team of past Executive Officer, Tejumade Hendrickson who graciously volunteered as Project Manager, Joanne Phillip and Ariston Sutherland in their respective capacities as Programme Manager and Information Systems Manager.

Both Phase 1 and 2 of the Alta Online pilot had to be completely restructured from an in-person format (planned for schools and community centres with on-site Alta tutor mentors) to a remote mode, putting ALA Online to a radical first test. Implementation of the pilot in the ever-changing world of the pandemic is a true achievement and testimony to the dedication of our staff, tutors and students.

Volunteer tutor mentors conducted a questionnaire to gather comprehensive feedback from ALTA Online Pilot 1 users, with very encouraging results. Special thanks go out to Reanti Singh and Keren Wilson of the UWI Campus Office of Planning and Institutional Research who provided technical expertise, the Survey Monkey tool, and collated and analysed the questionnaire results – all pro bono.

Survey findings showed that 100% of users:

  • Felt improved reading and spelling skills
  • Felt a sense of accomplishment with each reading activity
  • Were interested in continuing when more content becomes available

Specific pluses noted were the ability to work from home, at their own pace, and the ability to redo activities and revise. Most users preferred ALTA Online to the classroom, with over 90% being willing to recommend ALTA Online to improve their reading and writing.

ALTA’s UWI partnership has also been a source of added support to the project, as Dr. Phaedra Mohammed has assigned Associate Professional Raphael Superville to work on the ALTA Online games under her guidance. This has added valuable strength to the development team.

For 6 years, Republic Bank has remained faithful to ALTA’s vision of ALTA Online, sponsoring the software development costs under its Power to Make a Difference initiative – and this has made all the difference! Republic Bank has demonstrated continued confidence in ALTA Online with a renewed commitment to the project along with ongoing support for ALTA-V classes.

After seven years of focused development work, which has proven both challenging and rewarding, Book 1, Level 1 ALTA Online is complete and Book 2 is making good progress. We also thank Software Team Lead, Matthew Williams, for his continued commitment to the project, working pro bono on ALTA Online remotely from New York while simultaneously working for Facebook. Matthew is ably assisted by Stack Developer Jovaughn Smith who has proved to be highly competent and dedicated to ALTA Online.

We continue next week with more from the report on ALTA over the course of 2020.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Got the Message?

i Mar 18th No Comments by

One of the greatest challenges ALTA faces is getting our information to those who need to improve their reading and writing. Our world relies heavily on written communication which will not reach most of those who need our services.

Increased advertising costs coupled with the negative economic impact of a pandemic mean that ALTA must find innovative ways to connect to those who need our services and those willing to stand tall with us and amplify our voices. Enter the ALTA Messenger!

While we continue to advertise on radio and television, the most effective engagement has always been word-of-mouth. People are more likely to receive and act on a message received from someone they know and trust. Could that someone be you?

What is an ALTA Messenger?

An ALTA Messenger’s role is to promote our mission of empowering adults through literacy by being a channel for ALTA messaging to:

  • Break down the stigma attached to low literacy by sharing the facts about literacy and highlighting stories of real ALTA students
  • Inform potential students about ALTA and how they can join our free adult literacy classes
  • Reach out to prospective volunteer tutors with tutor testimonials and information on tutor training

Being an ALTA Messenger is simple. All you need to do is like, comment and share our content every time it appears on your feed. Also, every two or three months, ALTA may send a message with an image or video for you to share through your networks – church, friends and co-workers. You can send the information via WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

You can become an ALTA Messenger by sending your name to 741-9454 via WhatsApp with the sentence “I want to be an ALTA Messenger!” Not a WhatsApp user? No problem – send us an email:

Why ALTA Needs You?

For over 28 years, ALTA has provided free adult literacy classes across Trinidad. As the pandemic surfaced, ALTA was able to expand its reach to students who may have been unable to attend or were apprehensive about attending our physical classes, as we implemented ALTA-V via Zoom. Virtual classes have provided the opportunity to reach Tobago students too. Once a student is equipped with a web-enabled smartphone or computer, they can access improved literacy through ALTA.

Additionally, after more than 6 years of focused development work, ALTA Online is in the hands of users. Together with the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago participants are currently benefitting from a pilot of this web-based programme.

Despite all this work, there are many people in T&T who have never heard about ALTA. Our programmes can only have an impact if they are widely known. That’s where we are hoping that you, Dear Reader, will step in.

An ALTA Messenger is passionate about raising awareness of literacy as a skill. They are committed to breaking down the stigma attached to low literacy by sharing the facts about literacy and highlighting stories of real ALTA students.

Even if you don’t sign up to be an ALTA Messenger, you can help by liking our page and sharing our posts every time they appear in your feed. Together, we can reduce the stigma attached to low literacy!

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Tutor Talks: Leveling Up

i Mar 11th No Comments by

We invited ALTA tutors to share their adult literacy volunteer experience and continue our series of articles that capture these candid discussions. In this segment, ALTA tutor Nicole Pichery and veteran volunteer and tutor training team member, Arlene Wallace-Romero speak about the ALTA Level 3 student experience.

Nicole: Arlene, how long have you been an ALTA tutor?

Arlene: I’ve been with ALTA on and off for twenty four years. I thoroughly enjoy my experience with ALTA. I’ve been back for many years now, and I think I’m here to stay.

Nicole: It’s wonderful to have you. That’s almost a quarter century, Arlene.

Arlene: Yes. And you know when I joined ALTA, I never realized that ALTA was so young. At that point, I joined ALTA and thought, “Wow, what a professional organization. They know their stuff.” And we’ve grown over the years. It’s just been wonderful to see how the programme has continued to grow. I see the growth in my students, but the organization has also grown in terms of the level of support that we’ve been able to provide for our tutors as well as to students. So it’s really been a lot of fun being part of ALTA for so long.

Nicole: Wonderful. So tell us about Level 3 Arlene. Do students come directly to the level 3 class when they join ALTA?

Arlene: An ALTA Level 3 student has left Level 2 or would have finished our Spelling Programme and at this stage has decided that they want to go on to do exams, whether it be CXC or school leaving exams. So there’s a very specific goal in their mind when they join Level 3. When students get a Level 2 certificate, they can provide support at home for their children or grandchildren, accomplish everyday literacy tasks. But when they come to Level 3, it’s because they’re really looking to go further to develop themselves with education and going on to do exams.

When they join ALTA, they would have overcome some fears and faced the shame associated with admitting to low literacy. They’re saying to themselves, “I want to improve myself.” Sometimes they come and they think “I know nothing. I want to start at base zero.” But when they come to the class and we evaluate them, we realize they do know something.

So for students, ALTA starts you at the level that you’re at. You could be what we call a Level 1 student or a Level 2. Maybe your need may just be to improve on your spelling, so you can actually start with the Spelling Programme which is another aspect of ALTA that has been developed over the last few years.

Nicole: Arlene, what goals do the students come into the ALTA classroom with?

Arlene: Some people actually want to start their own businesses. As I said, we are preparing them for maybe starting to do English class or even school leaving. There are many other options for education, say geriatric care, child care and other types of training.

But the students just joining an ALTA class often feel that they don’t have all of the tools that they need to perform at their best in those classes. So they’re actually in the class really trying to build their confidence, trying to build their skills so that when they get into the other courses they feel more competent and can get the full benefit of that instruction.

You know, some of our students are church members and part of church communities. So they want to be able to hold a Bible class with people in their communities and things like that. So those are some of the goals that students are seeking to achieve.

Nicole: Arlene, what advice would you give to your students?

Arlene: We are at a special stage right now where we have embarked upon virtual classes, and this is new for all of us, for the tutors, for the students, and it’s going to be a challenge, but a fun challenge. I always like to think that we have fun no matter what – whether it’s face to face or virtual. We are going to have fun and just encourage them to know that there’s nothing that can stand in the way of achieving their goals.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Tutor Talks – Persevering to Succeed

i Mar 4th No Comments by

We invited ALTA tutors to share their adult literacy volunteer experience and continue our series of articles that capture these candid discussions. In this segment, ALTA tutor Nicole Pichery and fellow volunteer Nichole Lancaster speak about some of the obstacles that students face.

Nichole is one of our experienced tutors teaching adults at both level one and level two. She is also a Youth Lit tutor and coordinator.

Nicole P.: So, Nichole how long have you been with ALTA?

Nichole L.: I’ve been with ALTA nine years now and I’m on my tenth year.

Nicole P.: That is certainly a long time to be with ALTA. You must have a passion for it. When we get into the ALTA classroom, we really don’t want to leave, we get so attached. Can you share some of your student experiences from the classroom?

Nichole L.: I remember one of the students telling me “Miss, I never thought I would be able to do a crossword.” And I said, “Yes? How did you find it was?” He said “I was really excited! I’m ready to go and do every crossword puzzle that I see.”

As a teacher you aim to give them that inspiration, that willingness to just go and conquer. That’s really what you want to do because they come in feeling they are failures. When I help them succeed at one thing, two things, three things they realize that this learning to read and write is not so difficult after all and most importantly, I am not a “failure.”

Nicole P.: That is so important. Does it take long for students to adjust in your classroom?

Nichole L.: It usually doesn’t take long. I am thinking of one of my students Deborah who, though she started late into the academic year, just fell right in. It’s like that space was open and waiting for Deborah to come and fit in. She came with that spirit of camaraderie, willingly assisting fellow students with their work. This is the case with many students as we foster an environment of cooperative rather than competitive learning.

Nicole P.: What do you think are the biggest obstacles that students have to overcome to step into the ALTA classroom?

Nichole L.: Their ego – they should commit to talking themselves into doing what needs to be done. They have to say “Listen, there is help out there for me and I can be a part of it and enrich my life to be a better person if I can read and write better.” Essentially doing some self-talk and letting go of the shame. That’s the main obstacle that students have to face before they enter into the ALTA class.

Nicole P.: Nichole, before we go, do you have any words of advice to share?

Nichole L.: My words of advice to tutors would be, let’s continue to work toward building stronger citizens. To the students – present students, I would like you to persevere. You are not a failure. True success lies within you. And to those students who are thinking about coming to ALTA, I want to tell you “Just come, just take that step into the class.”

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT