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10-year milestone for Fort Wayne's New Immigrant Literacy Program

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 7:36 am

In the past 10 years, with the help of 1,499 volunteers and 14,306 volunteer hours, Fort Wayne's New Immigrant Literacy Program has educated 1,066 local children.

Once known as the Burmese Literacy Program, it has offered classes to students ages 5 to 12 who do not speak English as their native language. Kyaw T. Soe, founder, organized the program in 2003 with his own money, when he saw Burmese students were falling behind in school. It started with four volunteers; Soe, his wife, and two volunteers from the American Red Cross. The goal was to get young Burmese preschoolers and kindergartners ready to start in American schools.

In 2005-06 the program moved to IPFW with help from Joe D. Nichols, chair of the Department of Educational Studies at IPFW, the School of Education, and the support of then-Chancellor Michael Wartell and Dean Barry Kanpol.

Since that time 1,066 local children, mostly Burmese, Thai, Congolese, Samarian, Hispanic, Indian, Sudanese and Chinese immigrant children have received one-on-one tutorial services. The program has held dozens of parent workshops and seminars on various topics including the American school system, healthy homes and schools, child abuse and neglect, safety in homes and schools, bridging homes and schools, the American Dream, and meet the Fort Wayne Police Department's chief.

The program held its first annual literacy fair, named after Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in June 2005, on her birthday. The literacy fair has been broadcast in Burmese around the world via international media outlets such as BBC, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, etc. In 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi sent a video message for her acknowledgment of the fair's 7th annual celebration.

Saturday morning the public is invited to attend and observe the tutoring sessions at 11 a.m. in Neff Hall, followed by a news conference at 11:30 a.m. in the lobby. IPFW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs George McClellan, professor and chairman of educational studies Joe Nichols, and Soe will speak at the news conference.

For more information call Soe at 1-260-489-2585 or 1-260-466-6142 or send e-mail to soek@ipwf.edu or Nichols at 1-260-481-6445 or nicholsj@ipfw.edu.