Annual Conference

Former student extols Read to Learn's positive influence at annual conference

Tutor volunteers at the 24th annual Read to Learn conference last fall welcomed one of their very own success stories.

Nvart Eksuzyan proudly stood in front of her former teachers, tutors and other volunteers, recalling her journey from leaving her native Russia, to living in Milwaukee, to moving to Wheeling, and to hearing about Community Education and the RTL program.

"I came to this country with nothing. I didn’t know how to speak English," she said. "But that changed when I enrolled in the program and met my tutor. It’s the best thing because it’s one-on-one tutoring."

Like thousands of non-English speaking immigrants who came to the United States, Eksuzyan discovered the program and took advantage of it. She was an RTL student for two years and learned English by practicing a lot.

"I won’t be where I am now without my tutor," she added. "I needed my tutor to guide me. If I didn’t know a word, I would use the dictionary."

At the conference, the RTL staff members -- especially her former teachers -- beamed with pride as they listened to her. Some even wiped away tears.

Eksuzyan, whose first job when she came to the U.S. was cleaning houses, shared her many milestones including working as a cashier at a local store, an "upgrade" she called it; working a 12-hour shift at a factory where she received a promotion; and landing a job as a bank teller after receiving her banking/financial certificate from Harper College. She’s been working at the bank since 1999.

"You volunteer your time. You’re doing a great job," she tells the audience. "Because of you, I can look back and say, I did it!"

Speakers at the conference included Karen Butzen, Nicol Engel and Diana Bucko, all site supervisors; and Jennie Spallone, local author. The site supervisors spoke on online resources and technology for tutors and students, building literacy through blogging, and Lexiles.