Victoria was working as a waitress when she started classes at Southwest Solutions’ Adult Learning Lab in southwest Detroit. Her goal was to improve her English, since Spanish is her first language, and work toward her GED so she could obtain a better job.
Victoria participates in a small group tutored by Elaine Semanik, who has been volunteering at The Lab for three years. When Victoria mentioned to Elaine that she had lost her waitressing job, Elaine began to assist her with applying for another job.
Elaine showed Victoria sample resumes and job forms, and then walked her through the process. Consequently, Victoria applied for a job at a grocery store in Mexicantown, and recently started working there.
“Several of the students that I’ve helped have been able to get jobs or better jobs, and that makes me very happy,” Elaine says. “I love to see the students progress. It’s rewarding to share in their accomplishments resulting from what they’ve learned at The Lab.”
Elaine is one of twenty volunteers who are tutoring at The Learning Lab, which helps adults improve their literacy, math and computer skills so they can earn their GED and be qualified for better employment. Classes are free for eligible participants after for a nominal registration fee. Currently, there are about 200 students enrolled at the Lab, and a large waiting list of students waiting to enter the program.
Elaine tutors at the Lab two days a week for a couple of hours. She is retired, after working in management in the auto industry. The students that she helps are typically from Latin America and Africa. Several reside at Freedom House Detroit, which assists individuals seeking asylum after fleeing persecution in their native countries.
“Despite everything they’ve been through, the students are eager to learn and move forward with their lives,” Elaine says. “I learn a lot from them, too.”