Inclusive Approach: Director strongly believes in Literacy Center goals - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Inclusive Approach: Director strongly believes in Literacy Center goals

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Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2019 9:45 am

A 100-year-old quote, erroneously attributed to Mark Twain, holds that “someone who can read and won’t is considerably worse off than some who can’t read, because the latter can be taught to read, while the former is stuck in ignorance.”

Brownsville native Emily Younger truly believes that every child deserves a quality education, and through her efforts as executive director of the Brownsville Literacy Center strives to make that happen on a daily basis.

Growing up with her grandparents, who only spoke Spanish, Emily Younger spent her formative childhood years serving as translator and interpreter, guiding them through everything from phone calls, to doctor’s appointments and everyday correspondence.

During high school, Younger sought ways to give back to her community, becoming involved in the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and organizing a blood drive at Homer Hanna High School, and found time to also volunteer at Valley Grande Manor and Good Neighbor Settlement House.

While attending the University of Texas at Brownsville, Younger worked as a legal secretary and learned about corporate, probate, and civil law. Younger continued her volunteer service with her parish, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where her earliest appreciation of volunteerism had begun as an altar server.

After caring for her mother, who passed away following a long illness, Younger honored her mom’s dying wish by completing her bachelor of arts in government in 2012. During her undergraduate studies, Younger found that her passion for community education and literacy was sparked, and applied for a job at the Brownsville Literacy Center as a Mobile Lab instructor.

“ Some of my most rewarding moments came during those times when we’d park the Lab outside of a Walmart, or the Cameron County Detention Center, and look on in admiration as students, (including some who were female detainees), would work their way through the computer modules and complete their GED(s),” Younger recalled.

The goals of the Brownsville Literacy Center celebrate the student participants’ culture, heritage, and family commitment while they are pursuing English proficiency.

For the 10 volunteer teachers, Younger seeks to inspire her staff by endeavoring to maintain a positive learning environment that emphasizes positive reinforcement.

“All our teachers have a passion for literacy and sincerely desire to help,” Younger says.

Those teachers include Vietnam veteran Salvador Salinas, Kathy Hedtelerer, a retired dental hygienist, and Esperanza Villanfranco, who began her Literacy Center experience as a Spanish-speaking student and now teaches English as a Second Language.

“Our teachers tend to stay on for years, and someone like Esperanza, who completed the GED in her sixties, continue to motivate and encourage our students by example,” Younger said.

Younger was promoted to executive director of the Brownsville Literacy Center in September 2018 after serving a five year- span in roles from instructor to education coordinator to program director.

As a non-profit organization, the Brownsville Literacy Center, a fixture in downtown Brownsville for the past 32 years, receives a portion of its funding through the United Way of Southern Cameron County.

On Saturday, the Literacy Center will celebrate its 21st Symphony in the Park at Washington Park, 700 E. Madison St., from 6 to 9 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the center’s educational programs for underserved adults and families in Brownsville.

Younger estimates that more than 700 adults and children experience the Center’s learning environment on a yearly basis, and proudly asserts, “We always welcome back our families and kids, and we want them all to feel that they always have a home here.”

sgroves@brownsvilleherald.com

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