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Monterey Park Walks for City’s Literacy Program

Supporters of “Literacy for All of Monterey Park” turned out last week to support the city library’s literacy program at the 4th annual LAMP walkathon, an effort to raise money for the program that has reached its capacity due to budget cuts at a time when enrollment is increasing.

Nancy Ishino-Gilmore, a member of the Library Board of Trustees and a volunteer English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher at the library, participated in the walkathon in hopes of raising awareness about the program that used to be free but is now charging students a fee to make up for a loss of funding.

Denise Tang, a Monterey Park Library paige helps walkathon participants sign up and donate to the library’s literacy program. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“This brings [the program] to the attention of everybody,” Ishino-Gilmore told EGP. “We need to do everything we can to bring in a little more money because we don’t want to charge our students more.”

The literacy program is based at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library on South Ramona Avenue.  Norma Arvizu, literacy administrator at the library, told EGP that Literacy for All serves over 1000 students a year, ranging from children to adults. After many ESL classes were cut in the area, Arvizu said people flocked to the library’s ESL program.

“Our program has grown 435% since the beginning, when we first initiated the program in 2008,” Arvizu said. “Since then our program has grown to full capacity, we have a waiting list of people wanting to get in.”

The ESL classes taught through an adult education program at the library include writing, speaking, grammatical structure and citizenship classes. The classes are free but students pay a  $20 material fee to help offset the cost.

“We’re recognized in the state of California as having the most comprehensive literacy program within a library setting, which means it’s very unique,” Arvizu said.

One of Arvizu’s tasks is to raise money for the literacy program, which is run with only 2 full- and one part-time employees, and 11 volunteer teachers trained by Arvizu.

According to Arvizu, the library’s citizenship’s program has a 98% passing rate and has to date helped over 2,000 people become citizens.

“You have an enormous immigrant population”  in the area, Arvizu said. “They know how important it is to learn English and to be able to pass the citizenship exam as well.”

Sandra Wong, Director for Monterey Park Christian School Preschool on Garfield went to the event to donate and get her walkathon t-shirt to help promote the program and event.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Wong said. “I can’t believe that a public library would be doing something like this, so I think its great to be able to donate money towards the materials they need to help the program.”

Former volunteer Brian Henderson has moved out of Monterey Park but still attended lat Saturday’s walkathon fundraiser.

“It’s a really great community program and over the last few years funding for programs like this have been cut, so its really important when fundraising activities like this come up that the entire community pitches in and supports it,” Henderson said.

With many of the donations sent online after the walkathon event, the total amount of the donations the program received won’t be available until next week. Arivizu hopes, however, that the fundraising efforts surpass last year’s $8,300 raised. Their goal was to raise $8,500 this time around.

“I’m always hopeful and optimistic because this community really does appreciate any classes that are offered like this,” said Arvizu.

Donations can be made to the Monterey Park’s literacy program online at www.razoo.com/story/lampliteracy. For more information about the library and the program visit the city website at www.ci.monterey-park.ca.us.