VISTA, Financial Literacy, and Manatee Reads!

Verna Urbanski

I am an Americorp VISTA volunteer with Manatee Reads! formerly The Literacy Council of Manatee County. I’m originally from Western Massachusetts, and when we came to Florida, we became exposed to a wide diversity of cultures and food. After my husband passed away, I heard that volunteering combats depression.  I was still working, and work was ok, but boy, when the weekends came, I found I couldn’t wait for Monday again. I had no purpose. Someone suggested the literacy council, and I thought why not, I could teach someone to read. I mean, all I had to do was give my time. So I signed up. I had volunteered before, but this time I was going to be my own boss and volunteer on my terms, weekends only!  You know how they say, “things happen for a reason”; well, they were looking for just what I had to offer. Fancy that!  After meeting with the director and going through the training, I was hooked. I could tutor right before NASCAR racing, or just before NFL kickoff. It turned out that what helped me was helping to make a difference in other peoples’ lives and in the community.

I had been tutoring for over two years when I lost my job. Not being too computer savvy, I called in my volunteer hours, as required, and right away the director asked “How are you” and I replied “Unemployed”.  Again, “things happen for a reason”.  She then proceeded to tell me about the summer VISTA position at the literacy council that I was selected for. While I couldn’t tutor students as a part of my VISTA position, (as VISTA does not allow for direct service) but I was growing again, learning new things, meeting people from all over (and getting new recipes too)! I thought I’d only do this for the summer while I searched for a new job, but the opportunities were dwindling and soon panic was setting in. When the organization was approved for a full-year VISTA, they asked me to stay and I did.

I’ve learned so much in this assignment, such as new computer skills, tweeting, and just think this will be my first blog post! I’ve also learned how to apply and prepare for writing grants for the financial programs. I’ve gained confidence in my ability to network with people that support Manatee Reads! and VISTA’s common interests. I reached out to CredAbility and spoke to them about helping us present a workshop on budgeting.  By exposing our needs and their services, when an opportunity arose, CredAbility immediately thought of us. Through my reaching out to them, they were able to partner with us to provide workshops to our students free of charge.

April is Volunteer Month, so get up, get out, be active and volunteer to make a difference in people and your community. The rewards are immeasurable.

Top Literacy Stories: February 13

Top Stories in LiteracyStates shake up adult education to help low-skilled workers
President Barack Obama’s recent proposal to “train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job” barely scratches the surface of one of the nation’s most vexing labor problems.

Low Literacy Hurts Women’s Wages More than Men’s
Women at all levels of literacy tend to have lower wages than comparable men, but the gender wage gap is most noticeable between men and women of low literacy levels.

Nora Sanders has been named the Adult Learner of the Year
Nora Sanders of Shelbyville has been named the Adult Learner of the Year by the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE). Sanders was named Tennessee Adult Learner of the Year last fall and was selected from COABE from among other state winners.

New Report Finds More Older Americans Seeking Literacy/Basic Ed Programs
The percentage of adults 55 and older in adult literacy/basic education programs has doubled since the economic downturn in 2008, says a new report from ProLiteracy and Senior Service America.

Congress Ponders Adding GED Requirement to Unemployment Benefits
The House and Senate are debating a provision that would tie unemployment benefits to a high school diploma or a GED and to drug testing.

Why you should stay at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, site for the 2012 FLC Conference

Welcome to the St. Petersburg Hilton Bayfront! Steps from our front door your attendees will enjoy a vibrant pedestrian friendly waterfront district.

Enjoy sailing and fishing charters, dolphin tours, and amazing local dining and night life. No cars needed, you can walk, use the local trolley with a stop in front of the hotel or our hotel shuttle. For the second year in row American Style Magazine has named St.Petersburg the TOP Arts Destination City in the Country. This is the tenth year we have been recognized for our vibrant arts community and many of our offerings are located just steps from the hotel in including the New Salvador Dali Museum and the Dale Chilhuly Collection.

Every guest room & suite offers spectacular views or partial views of Tampa Bay, The Sunshine Skyway Bridge or Downtown St. Petersburg and The St. Petersburg Sailboat Harbor. Our Hilton Honors Lounge located on the 15th floor has panoramic views and the perfect spot forVIP’s to be located.

Our spacious and elegant lobby with marble and crystal accents leads to 333 over sized guestrooms which feature the Hilton Serenity Bed Collection, Crabtree & Evelyn Amenities, an mp3 player dock and wireless internet availability. 28 Alcove Suites and 3 Parlor Suites. Our newly remodeled Executive Lounge on the 15th Floor features panoramic views of the Tampa Bay and offers complimentary continental breakfast and happy hour events for VIP guests. The hotel boasts over 30,000 square feet of unobstructed meeting space located on one floor with state-of the-art meeting room furniture

Our award winning Tangerine restaurant, offers upscale dining in a trendy atmosphere. On-Site Starbucks offers complimentary wireless internet access. New remodeled upscale Lobby Bar with backdrop that ties in the new Dali Museum.

Complimentary wireless Internet Access in public Foyers Spa Olimpia at the Hilton pampers our guests with massages, body treatments, facials, manicures and hair styling.BusinessCenteris open 24-hours and can meet many of your administrative needs when away from the office. Stay active in our heated pool, oversized Jacuzzi and full-service Fitness Center.

This is the location for the 2012 Florida Literacy Coalition Conference. For more information about registration or presenting at conference, please check out our website.