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New LitNet Head Talks COVID Impact, 2021 Plans

The Literacy Network of South Berkshire logo
The Literacy Network of South Berkshire

In September, Leigh Doherty became Executive Director of the Literacy Network of South Berkshire. The nonprofit offers free educational support to adults in the region through one-on-one tutoring, with a focus on the county’s immigrant community. Doherty spoke with WAMC about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the group’s work and her vision for LitNet’s future.

We halted like most people in March. And then we started to, you know, wake up a little bit and we did a, we're actually just finishing a research project, a distance learning initiative, where we're practicing with tutors and learners working through Zoom and working in virtual manners. And it's working quite well. So all of our pairs that are up and running, which are over eighty right now, are working virtually. 

Where do you want to see LitNet go under your leadership?

I'm so excited to be part of LitNet. I have ideas about diversifying, who's part of LitNet, in terms of the faces of LitNet. I would love to see us grow, to grow our advocacy for our learners, not just teaching language, which is what our expertise is, but also providing extended advocacy for the needs of immigrants in Berkshire County. I'm excited about growing that domain of what LitNet does.

What kind of relationships are essential to LitNet's operations outside of the organization itself, And are there new relationships you want a court now you're the head of the organization?

It's such a community-oriented organization, and I'm part of a group called BASIC, which is the Berkshire Advocacy and Services for the Immigrant Community. And it's an amazing group of nonprofits locally that work for the immigrants and do things, whether it's language, whether it's financial assistance, whether it's medical, it's really- I've been really excited to be involved with that group of people that are really trying to support immigrants being successful in Berkshire County. So I look to grow those connections with other nonprofits that are providing for people in our community.

I'm interested- Beyond just moving to a virtual platform, are there other ways that COVID has impacted witness?

It's definitely the relationships piece. I mean, so much of what we do with- Language learning itself is an in-person thing, you see people's facial expressions and their hand gestures. And so we're missing that piece of thing, even the warmth of an in-person relationship. But everybody's missing that right now. So that is missing. And we're learning our best to to cultivate relationships in new ways, currently, but we look forward to being back in person and we hope that this chapter of being online together will also enhance our tutoring in the future so that we can be together in a hybrid fashion going forward.

Is there anything else we should know about LitNet as we head into 2021?

I just think it's exciting. I feel like when we came up when I came on board, it was asleep, and we're waking up again. And slowly I'm reaching out to tutors who were on hold and saying, Would you like to begin again? We're learning that this is going well and people are reaching out I've I've had over 40 new tutors train this fall since September since I came on board new people that are interested. That's fantastic. I also wanted to mention the club program which is, you know, serving students, elementary and middle school students and we have partnered with club as well to get tutors on board to help children specifically so that's an exciting endeavor right now.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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