We rely on many dedicated, talented volunteers at Southeast Community College. Shannon Sutherland has been volunteering with us for more than three years. Since then he has logged over 170 hours helping out in the Beginning Reading ESL class at SCC’s Education Square campus.
“I continue to help because I enjoy working with the students and feel a great deal of satisfaction helping out in the community,” he said.
ESL Beginning Reading teacher, Susan Johnston, appreciates having Sutherland in her class. She says he is very committed to the students and seems to really enjoy talking with them.
“He is skilled in getting an ideal mix of getting to know the students and leading them through the lesson of the day,” she said. “He knows how to adjust the lesson depending on the skills of the specific students in the group. He is a student of language himself in terms of an interest in writing poetry. He can identify the appropriate next step in understanding as students grow toward more sophistication in English.”
A native of Lincoln, Sutherland graduated from Lincoln East High School in 1983. He served in the Marine Corps for four years and then graduated from UNL in 1992. He then went to UNMC and graduated from the medical technology program.
He currently works at BryanHealth West. He’s been married for 26 years and has two kids. His son, CJ, also volunteers in the ESL program. In addition to work and family, he likes to travel, hike, hunt and dabble in poetry.
Sutherland has some good advice for other volunteers, or people thinking about becoming volunteers.
“My advice to other volunteers is to get to know the students you are working with,” he said. “Ask them questions about themselves. Many have fascinating stories. Getting to know them will increase your sense of empathy.”
On Sunday, January 8, I was honored to be involved in the Karen Society of Nebraska’s 2756 Karen New Year celebration at Lincoln High School. It was a day to celebrate and welcome the New Year. There was a formal ceremony to open the celebration which showed honor and respect to everyone in attendance. The opening was followed by speakers, dance performances, musical performances and a lunch of traditional Karen foods. This annual event is a major celebration for the Karen community and is fast becoming a recognized cultural event in the greater Lincoln community.
Lincoln and Omaha are home to a large Karen community. A number of smaller communities are home to Karen also. From the Karen Society of Nebraska website one find out more about the Karen community and other minority ethnic groups from Burma. Here is an excerpt from the KSN webpage, http://www.karenksn.org.
“The Karen (pronounced Ka-REN) is an ethnic group from the mountainous border regions of Burma and Thailand, where they are the second largest group in each country. They have long been subject to persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government. Many have been living in refugee camps in Thailand for years before being resettled to Nebraska. There are approximately 6,500 Karen living in Nebraska with an additional 300 refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma.
Due to employment opportunities and family ties, Nebraska currently has the largest and fastest-growing Karen population in the U.S. Nebraska communities with the largest Karen populations include Omaha, Lincoln, Crete, Nebraska City, Grand Island, Norfolk and Dakota City.
Burma (Myanmar) is a country of great ethnic diversity. It has an estimated population of approximately 50 million people and is divided between at least 8 major ethnic groups: Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Zomi (Chin), Arakanese, Mon, Burmese and Shan. Each ethnicity has their own language and customs that differ from one another.
Some say the beauty of the land, the bright colors of the clothing, and the harmony of the cultures, make the country wonderfully unique.
Alberto Vargas came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was just five years old. He remembers moving around a lot with his aunt and uncle throughout the U.S. during his grade school years.
“It was difficult because every school was different,” he said. “They studied different subjects at different times.”
Vargas attended Lincoln High School but wanted to hang out with his friends, enjoy life, and not be tied down to school.
“I missed assignments, missed classes, and just didn’t care,” Vargas admitted.
Eventually, he dropped out of high school and instead worked at a variety of different minimum-wage jobs. None of them making much money, and none of them were very satisfying.
Alberto’s grandmother was a very important role model to him when he was growing up in Mexico. He made a promise to her a long time ago that he would go back to school and get his GED® certificate. She was always very proud of him and knew he had the potential to do great things. His Uncle Carlos also helped him understand the importance of school.
Vargas was very fortunate, because he also had the support of his aunt Shai. She helped him with many things, like getting him his first job and helping with the paperwork for the Learn to Dream Act. He knew he had a shoulder to lean on with her.
“I know if I ever need help, I can go to Shai for advice,” he said.
Rich Freudenberg, Alberto’s GED® instructor, said once Alberto found he was successful in his school work, there was no stopping him.
“His plan was to get a degree so he could get a job to support himself and pay for a future degree in graphic arts,” Freudenberg said. “He is a great example of what an individual can accomplish with the support of caring family.”
Vargas appreciated the additional support from his instructor and used that to forge ahead with his goal.
“I really didn’t have the confidence, but Rich inspired me” he said. “He made me see that I could do it if I worked hard.”
Vargas achieved his goal of earning his high school diploma in September, 2015. Soon after, he started taking classes at SCC.
Currently hopes to work towards a degree in Graphic Design. He considers himself to be an artist, and hopes to apply that to his future career.
He knows he is now in a position to move forward with his life, and gives much of the credit for his success to his family and his instructors along the way.
“It’s so important to have that support, and I was lucky to have people that helped me,” he said.
Frances Belling wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in college, so she chose to study education. She knew from student teaching that it wasn’t a good fit for her to teach young children. After a few years of trying different things, she stumbled into volunteering in a literacy program and never looked back.
“While volunteering in a literacy program in Texas, the coordinator asked me to substitute for the ESL instructor,” Belling said. “I said I couldn’t because I didn’t know Spanish, she assured me that it was only necessary to speak English. I did it and loved it and I found my passion.”
Over the years, her husband’s employment took them to many different areas, but she always found a way to get involved in various ESL programs. Eventually Belling came to SCC where she has been teaching for seven years and hopes to continue until she’s forced to retire.
Belling said it was a challenge to choose her favorite part of teaching.
“Maybe it’s the inspiration I get from the students who are committed to learning and persevere despite many obstacles,” she said. “It might be the satisfaction of seeing the progress the students are making, or witnessing them become teachers.
She said there’s also a flip side, like not having enough time and resources to help each individual student.
“Finding a balance somewhere between overwhelming and too easy for a diverse group of students is never easy,” she said.
Belling’s family includes her husband, Dan, and her two sons, Anthony and Ryan and their significant others. She enjoys playing games, puzzles, knitting, cross-stitching and watching movies and reading. She also has a slight addiction to chocolate.
Joan Prince is our "Volunteer Spotlight" this quarter. She first started in the GED® program with Southeast Community College three years ago. During that time, she was able to work one-on-one with many students, including 19-year old Mortel Crawford, who is visually impaired.
"I was honored to know that he graduated after several months of helping him with lots of studying," Prince said. "I was also able to attend his (graduation) reception."
Prince is now volunteering at the Lancaster County Jail through SCC's GED® program. It's a good fit since she spent 11 years as a child abuse and juvenile worker. Every Friday, Joan spends two hours getting to know some of the inmates by listening to them talk about their past and hopes for the future. She wants them to succeed almost as much as they do.
"Sometimes, just getting out the multiplication flash cards for a few minutes helps the students see where they need to start, or it gives them confidence," she said. "Others are very advanced, using this time and support to work on the GED® test skills and curriculum."
She says it's definitely a mix of skill levels, and quite the challenge. She even had to re-learn how to work with fractions all over again in order to be a better teacher.
Joan said when her kids were little, she always made a point to read to them. When they got a little older and developed their own interests, she would find books that would appeal to those interests. Her daughter loved science fiction, while her son read about video games.
"If you can find what interests you, reading about that interest will make reading fun, not work," she said.
When Joan has spare time, she enjoys reading about the next destination for her vacation.
"I hope I have touched many lives and given them some direction that they too can pass on to their own children and others."
"If you don't think you can do it, you can. I know--because I did it!" said Diego Miguel.
Miguel, 27, has come a long way. He almost gave up his goal of earning his GED® diploma. He felt his goal was unreachable while working full-time in Crete and raising a young family. He was tired.
"I get up at 4:00 a.m. to get to my job on time," Miguel said. "It was not always easy to get to class and then go home to my girlfriend and help with our children, ages 1 and 3. It was hard."
However, Diego set his own personal goal by earning his diploma by the end of 2016. He ended up finishing it five months early at the end of July.
"I am just so happy," Miguel exclaimed. "I worked hard day after day and read a lot. I put in so many extra hours, but it helped."
Miguel was born in Guatemala. At the age of four, his mother left for the United States to make a better life for the family. His father had already left before that. His grandmother was now his caregiver. When he was 13, she died. He and his brother left to go find them.
There were many struggles and terrifying moments, but he and his brother eventually made it to Minnesota to be with his parents. Life wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. Miguel dealt with anger and emotional issues and ended up dropping out of high school. Eventually, he moved to Omaha to find a job.
Miguel began taking GED® classes at SCC in 2014. He attended Jeannine VanLaningham's GED® class at the Good Neighbor Center.
"Jeannine was so encouraging to me," Diego said. "She helped me so much."
Volunteer Nicholas Kass was also a source of support for Miguel.
"Nick showed me so many different ways to do math," Miguel said. "He was so patient and showed me step-by-step how to do algebra problems."
Diego also had the opportunity to do some of his work online. He said he learned a lot from the computer programs.
"It is so great that SCC Adult Education has these for the students" he commented.
He is extremely proud to be the first one in his immediate family to have a high school diploma. His goal for the future is to go to college and become an electrician or an auto mechanic.
"Time will tell," he said, with a big smile. "Right now, I just want to enjoy where I'm at. I'm just so happy."
Claudia Reinhardt is our "Volunteer Spotlight" this quarter. She currently volunteers in SCC's Family Literacy class at Elliott Elementary in Lincoln. She enjoys tutoring adults and hearing about their life experiences.
"I believe in the power of literacy," Reinhardt said. "Helping with the Family Literacy Program seemed to be a logical progression. We have a great teaching team at Elliott School and I enjoy the many languages and cultures represented in the classroom. I love one-on-one teaching and I've learned so much from our students. I've also encouraged some retired teacher friends to volunteer."
Originally from Illinois, Reinhardt has also lived in Colorado, Iowa and Boston while earning academic degrees and working in public relations and fundraising for educational institutions. She moved to Lincoln in 2000.
In her spare times she enjoys hiking, biking, yoga, gardening and reading. She is active in her church and loves to travel. During the summer she and her husband went on a bike tour through Belgium and the Netherlands.
"The rural terrain was similar to Nebraska, but with scenic canals and iconic windmills," she said.
Last year she turned 65 and published her first collection of poetry and photography: Skating on the Sky. She says the title comes from a poem about the Sandhill Crane migration.
Reinhardt says she is inspired from this quote from Richard F. Wilson, president of Illinois Wesleyan University.
"Search for what is true. Stand for what is just. And strive to make a difference."
Review by Frederick Clopeck
This is the only book I've read this decade with pandas on the cover. It's a guide for proper punctuation. It is about the development and use of our modern punctuation system. The author is entertaining and it's readable. Don't skip the long introduction or the new preface in the (2004) North American edition.
Punctuation marks are, of course, needed to clarify our written words. They make reading easier, and they reduce miscommunication. Unfortunately, they developed in different fields and have changed over time. Styles vary. There is no central authority when it comes to punctuation. There are opposing schools of thought concerning them.
When careless writers use marks incorrectly, it can be very annoying. When good writers use them in a manner unfamiliar to the reader, it can also be annoying. Some people just get very annoyed over dashes or mid-sentence parentheses -used correctly or not.
Ms. Truss recounts how many writers and publishers became obsessed with certain punctuation marks. In particular, it led to heated exchanges over the uses of commas, dashes and semi-colons. They were either for or against them, often fanatically. Their positions led to ridiculous over applications of, or conspicuous absences of the needed marks.
In addition to the humorous and numerous solecisms in this book, most chapters contain guidelines for the accepted use of punctuation marks. We can call the book educational.
Lynne Truss tells us of other authors who also tried to write entertaining books concerning punctuation. Chekhov attempted to make this dry subject humorous by having punctuation marks visit a sleeping secretary in a nightmare. Rules were recited to disperse them.
More fun reading includes the examples of absent or poorly placed hyphens and commas. A pickled fish salesman is certainly different from a pickled-fish salesman. The hyphen clarifies.
"Eats, Shoots and Leaves" was a British bestseller a few years ago and this is the second time I've read it. The preface to this North American edition has a bit more on the differences between British and American punctuating styles. There also is an engaging foreword by Frank McCourt, an Irish-American author and teacher.