Greetings to all our BEACON friends and supporters,
Over 1,000 adults have received ESOL instruction and over 300 people have volunteered in some capacity to support our mission and scope of work. Sometimes I am in awe of what our dedicated staff has accomplished and I can only say that without the leadership provided by Caroline Zong, program manager and Steffany (Bombard) Chaplin, program coordinator, BEACON would not be the very successful adult literacy program that it is today. Paid staff have been assisted by two AmeriCorps members each year. We are blessed to have these young professionals dedicate a year of their lives to volunteer service, working with our students and volunteers and supporting staff in all areas of program delivery and management.
It is with great regret that I am announcing Caroline’s resignation from BEACON, effective July 3. Caroline has served our organization well and has won the respect and admiration of students and volunteers throughout her tenure at BEACON. We all wish Caroline well in her future endeavors; her organizational skills are amazing and any organization will be privileged to have her in a management position.
The Year in Review
In terms of program administration, this has been an exceptional year for BEACON, particularly in the domain of leadership development. We have increased the number of board members from 4 to 11 and have obtained two grants that are providing leadership training for our board. We also did very well in grant procurement, having won over $100,000 in awards for Fiscal year 2015. Our second Scrabble® Scramble fundraiser netted over $5k and brought in new “friends” as we identified a network of Scrabble® enthusiasts that enjoyed competing in this fun event.
In terms of student activities and impact, we customized the program to meet the special and changing needs of our students. Over the past few years, we have seen an influx of refugee populations requiring beginner-level ESOL instruction, including those needing pre-literacy classes. We continue to provide civics education, citizenship preparation and financial literacy courses as well as individualized programming for learners that need the extra help that only a private tutor will provide.
BEACON was recognized for providing 22 years of educational services to the local Hispanic community in a Proclamation issued by the City of Manassas during Hispanic American Heritage Month (September 15 through October 15, 2014).
It Takes a Village
BEACON provides a valuable service through our ESOL instructional program, educating people new to this county by helping them gain the skills that will ultimately enhance their capacity for employment, self-sufficiency and family stability. For most of our learners, BEACON remains the most affordable and accessible structured program in the Western Prince William County region. However, without the support of our partners and volunteers, BEACON would not be operational. A special thanks to our host-partner sites that provide space and equipment for (both) our day and evening classes. Our AmeriCorps members provide ancillary support to BEACON and support staff in all facets of service delivery. Volunteers constitute the heart and soul of this organization. They are on the frontlines every day, teaching, tutoring and mentoring students, patiently helping them learn to speak, read and write in English and acquire the knowledge and essential lifeskills that will allow them to gradually assimilate into American society. And a special thanks to the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia (BSV) for their ongoing support and the personal and financial contributions they have made to BEACON for 23 years.
As I look forward to the year ahead, I am excited by new opportunities and vision for BEACON. We are developing a new website and purchasing new technology for students, both made possible through a generous grant from the Philip L. Graham Fund. We are integrating a workforce development component into our program for intermediate-level students. BEACON is financially solvent and the program is thriving. Over 80% of students have attained at least one educational goal each year since 2012. We survey both students and volunteers at the end of each semester and BEACON consistently receives very positive reviews from both sources.
I am a firm believer that change keeps an organization healthy and vibrant. To that end, we have made the decision to restructure the program for Fiscal Year 2016 and have upgraded the program manager position to executive director and are in the process of hiring as this newsletter goes to press.
We are now partnering with prominent literacy, social service, educational and immigrant-serving organizations. I am a member of several area councils that are invested in our mission work and the welfare of our clientele. We anticipate sustaining grants, donors and our network of volunteers. Although we are hiring an executive director, I will remain in an oversight role for BEACON through my position of BSV Director of Development & Programs and will always be a major advocate for the program.
Thanks to everyone who contributes to BEACON’s success each year…volunteers, grantors, donors, literacy partners and host sites. And our students. The challenges they faced, the obstacles they overcame on their journeys to America and their incredible stories of survival humble us. And…validate the importance of the work that we do in the name of BEACON. BEACON is approaching its 25th Anniversary in 2017; I hope everyone will plan on joining us in our quarter century celebratory event in April 2017.