Two students of the YWCA Pekin Adult Literacy Program have demonstrated the effectiveness of the tutoring they have received this year by winning statewide 2018 Spotlight on Literacy awards.

Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White honored the winners of the 2018 Spotlight on Literacy Awards during a ceremony at the Illinois State Library in Springfield in April. Ten adult literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners received Spotlight on Achievement Awards and 10 volunteer tutors received Spotlight on Service Awards. Winners of the Spotlight on Achievement Awards included Jaqueline “Susy” Aparicio and her husband, Darwin Amaya, who studied English as a Second Language at the Pekin YWCA.

“I am honored to congratulate these outstanding students for their hard work and determination to attain lifelong reading and learning skills,” said White. “Many of them have had to overcome great difficulties and personal obstacles to reach this level of achievement. I am also proud to recognize our outstanding volunteer tutors for their generosity and encouragement in helping literacy students achieve their utmost potential.”

The Spotlight on Literacy Awards recognize participants in Illinois literacy programs. An adult literacy or ESL learner or family may be nominated by anyone who has worked closely with the adult learner or family during the current calendar year. Spotlight on Achievement Awards are given to 10 statewide ESL or adult literacy learners based on obstacles overcome and measurable progress made in their learning. Winners are selected by a panel of literacy advocates at the state level.

When Aparicio and Amaya came to the United States from Honduras, they could read and write English, but neither of them spoke or understood the language, according to Tonja Ohnemus, YWCA Pekin director of Adult Literacy. Aparicio learned to navigate the United States currency and health care systems. Amaya has obtained his driver’s license and green card, and both have secured full-time employment. Under the instruction of YWCA Pekin tutor Cheryl Ivey, Aparicio and Amaya have increased their ability to read, write, speak and understand English while working full-time jobs and looking after their children.

“Cheryl and her husband, Tom, have developed a special bond and friendship with Susy and Darwin through the tutoring connection,” said Ohnemus. “They feel the learning has been reciprocal, because they have learned much from them (Aparicio and Amaya) as well.”

The awardees and tutor will be recognized for their accomplishments during an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the YWCA Pekin Adult Literacy office, 315 Buena Vista Ave. Light refreshments will be available at the event.

“Everyone is welcome to drop in and say hi and congratulate them on their successes,” Ohnemus said.  “Anyone who is curious about becoming a tutor or learner is also encouraged to stop by and ask any questions and see the program space.”