Holmes a good match for literacy program

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 7, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Richard Holmes didn’t know exactly what he was getting into when he offered his services to the YMCA Adult Literacy Program of St. John Parish. But it’s all been positive, and he is learning as much as his pupils.

“The teacher can benefit as much as the student,” he said. “You learn about human nature, and you feel as if you are doing something to make that person’s life more meaningful.”

The semi-retired attorney has seen the literacy situation from both sides.

For more than 20 years, he worked for the St. John Parish Indigent Defender Board.

‘You meet people that are intelligent, but for whatever reason, they didn’t get the education and/or reading skills that they needed,” he said. He added that the program he currently volunteers with gives adults in this situation another chance to become proficient in their reading skills.

Students come to the program for various reasons. The two men that Holmes has tutored since he began his volunteer work, which was two sessions years ago, were both in their 40s and could read one-syllable words.

Their reasons to enter the literacy program were basically the same as many others, said Holmes.

He added that people may just be tired of bluffing and covering up, and feel its time to get down to business and learn to read like those around them. They want to be able to read work-related memos or the newspaper.

Students coming into the program may be uncomfortable at first, but as the sessions continue and a common ground is found, success takes only as long as the student is determined and motivated, said the tutor.

Human nature being what it is, the process of teaching another person is made easier when both parties have something in common. That ‘something’ was hunting, in the case of Holmes and his first student. The men talked about their hobby, while at the same time, keeping focused on the purpose of the tutoring sessions.

The frequency of the meetings are structured according to both the student and the teacher. And the duration of each person’s individual program can vary also. Holmes was with his first student for about 10 months.

“I meet with my current student once a week at the St. John Library,” said Holmes. “But there are others that schedule twice a week or every other week – it’s whatever they want to do.”

Attaining a sixth-grade reading level is considered adequate, with many students continuing to expand their studies on their own, once they leave the literacy program.

In addition to tutoring with the Literacy Program, Holmes works in his family’s local businesses. He also spends quality time with his family – wife Ann and daughters Catherine and Carin.

“I feel that I am helping with something that is so important in a person’s life,” said Holmes. “When your teaching and see progress, it’s a great feeling.”

For more information on volunteering with the YMCA Adult and Family Literacy Program, call (985) 536-2828 in St. John Parish; or (985) 785-6880 in St. Charles Parish.