Literacy Coalition searching for program participants

CAMDEN - The Literacy Coalition-South Central Arkansas in Camden is putting out a call for participants and volunteers who are needed for two programs that are designed to improve literacy and help end poverty in South Arkansas.

Devin Smith, volunteer coordinator for LCSCA, said the group is reaching out to area residents, including those in the Golden Triangle (El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia, for help in covering a variety of volunteer roles for the R.I.S.E. (Reading Into Self Elevation) Initiative and the E3RPlus (Early 3 Rs Plus Parent Plan: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic) Project, which LCSCA launched last year with help from a $6.600 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Dollar General also awarded an $8,000 grant to the LCSCA in 2022 to assist with the R.I.S.E Initiative.

R.I.S.E. is an open-door program that schedules weekly sessions in El Dorado, Camden and Hampton and offers tutoring in reading, writing, math and computer navigation.

The R.I.S.E. curriculum encompasses a number of services that go beyond reading and writing. Smith explained that the program is geared toward helping students function in a society that is heavily influenced by technology.

"Some people are not computer literate. They may want to become more familiar with their smartphone or tablet. They may want to read better and learn how to function in today's world, such as filling out job applications online," she said.

"You may need something from the Social Security Administration and they tell you, 'It's online. You need to fill it out online. Everything is online and if you don't know, then someone has to show you," Smith continued. "It's about expanding what literacy actually is and what that means in 2023. We're here to help you with all that."

Smith referred to a R.I.S.E. student, a man in his early 20s, who had held jobs but did not know what a resume was, noting that the jobs he had required candidates to complete applications for employment.

The program also helps students recognize online scams and fraud and offers assistance to students who are enrolled in a GED program and may need extra tutelage, she said.

R.I.S.E teaches health and financial literacy and provides assistance with job skills. One-on-one tutoring and community classes are available.

R.I.S.E sessions are held from noon until 2 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday at Barton Library in El Dorado; 1 until 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Ouachita County Library in Camden; and 1 until 3 p.m. on Friday in the Calhoun County Library in Hampton.

Smith said volunteers are needed for R.I.S.E, adding that the program is ongoing and participants and tutors may set their own schedules to attend each week "as much or as little" as needed to meet the students' goals.

"With R.I.S.E., we have a few people signed up and we need actual tutors. We've got to get the volunteers trained and in order first, but it's an open-door program," Smith said.

"You don't have to stay the whole time. You don't have to stay from 12 to 2 (p.m.). It's your time. You can stay an hour," said Smith.

Tutors must be at least 18 years old and Smith said the program is ideal for high-school seniors and college students who need volunteer hours to complete educational requirements or degree programs.

"This is perfect for them and it's rewarding to see other people achieve a goal and do well," she said. "You're helping to give back the community so that other people can reach their goals and have a better life. They can read their own mail or read their own bank statement. They don't have to depend on other people."

To enroll in or volunteer for the R.I.S.E program, visit one of the three community sites in El Dorado, Camden or Hampton, call 1-833-GO2-READ (462-7323) or visit


E3RPlus is an anti-poverty, family program that assists single parents who are unemployed and underemployed and have children who are between the ages 3 and 10, explained Linda Nelson, executive director of the LCSCA.

The rolling, six-week program aims to give children a head start on their education and help parents navigate the educational system for their children, while setting their own career and life goals.

LCSCA is looking to boost participation in the next E3RPlus Workshop, which starts March 1 at the old Zion Hill Baptist Church building, 117 Maul Road, in Camden.

The sessions will be held from 3:30 until 6 p.m. each Wednesday for six-weeks. Parents and children will need to attend all weekly sessions, said Nelson.

E3RPlus will focus on the adult participants' personal and professional goals, health, wellness, social interactions and tools and resources to help "break the cycle of generational poverty."

The program also provides activities for children and adults.

"It's also a family literacy program. We will help them with financial literacy, budgeting, meal prep, how to grocery shop -- different things that families may need to know and the kids, we'll break them down into groups by age," said Smith.

Nelson said ongoing job-training will be available to parents following the six-week workshop.

Space for the E3RPlus is limited to five families.

To sign up for the upcoming workshop, call Nelson or Shakerah Moody at 832-792-8438 or 833-462-7323.

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