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  • Ray Williams, guest speaker and student, addressed the crowd at the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council’s appreciation dinner on April 26.
    Photo courtesy of Mary Catherine Wickham
    Ray Williams, guest speaker and student, addressed the crowd at the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council’s appreciation dinner on April 26.
  • Deena Fujimoto, guest speaker and AACLC math tutor, addressed the crowd at the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council’s recent appreciation dinner.
    Photo courtesy of Mary Catherine Wickham
    Deena Fujimoto, guest speaker and AACLC math tutor, addressed the crowd at the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council’s recent appreciation dinner.

Anne Arundel County Literacy Council Hosts Appreciation Dinner At Woods Church

Jane Seiss
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May 15, 2018

The Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC) held its annual appreciation dinner on April 26 at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park. A large group of AACLC volunteers, supported by Woods’ staff, worked together to provide a memorable evening for students, tutors and their guests. Many local businesses and community members generously donated food items and door prizes. The church donated space for the occasion.

Dinner attendees enjoyed a buffet meal, followed by a short program to honor students, volunteers and the council’s 41st anniversary serving Anne Arundel County. Featured speakers included dedicated adult literacy student Ray Williams, and Deena Fujimoto, an AACLC math tutor who also serves as a linguist in the United States Air Force.

Williams is from a small town in Southern Maryland. He struggled to stay focused in school and dropped out in 10th grade at the age of 16. Williams eventually moved to Annapolis where, with a tow truck and a snowplow, he was able to start his own business. Unable to read and write, at 60, Williams sought tutoring help from the literacy council. He meets with his tutor, Jan Booth, a retired teacher, once a week to improve his reading skills.

Captivating the room with the story of his lifelong journey toward literacy, Williams admitted that for years, his partner, Michele, has had to read his mail for him. “Now I can read my own mail,” he declared. Speaking to the room full of students and volunteers, he added, “Put your fear away, because it gets better. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed. Once I became open about it, I found a whole lot more help.”

Through the literacy council, Fujimoto tutors students in math. She hopes to become a high school math teacher to help students learn that math is not a horrible subject to be dreaded but, rather, a valuable tool that should be appreciated.

Fujimoto explained to the audience that as a student, she did well in many subjects but struggled to keep up in math. In 10th grade, an algebra teacher intervened and became a personal mentor. “She took me under her wing,” Fujimoto recalled. “She paid a lot of attention to me, and she cared — and so, I started to care.” By her senior year of high school, Fujimoto was president of the math league. “I really, really have come to love math,” she said.

The appreciation event provided an opportunity to celebrate student strengths and commitment with “character awards” that recognized admirable qualities such as courage, compassion, authenticity and perseverance. More than 200 guests enjoyed the evening.

Six women launched the literacy council in 1977 to address a local need for literacy counseling. The AACLC is a volunteer, nonprofit organization of about 250 tutors and volunteers dedicated to serving the needs of adults and out-of-school youth throughout Anne Arundel County with reading, writing, math and speaking English instruction. Services are convenient and free, and students meet regularly with tutors to work toward personal goals, like functional literacy, math proficiency, or obtaining a GED or equivalent. Last year, the AACLC recorded about 13,000 volunteer hours in service to out-of-school learners. “We have a talented volunteer group. It’s an amazing resource in our county,” said Executive Director Lisa Vernon.


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