By Laura Berndt
The Courier-Wedge

 The Buffalo Pepin Literacy Alliance (BPLA) hosted Annual Recognition Luncheon at the Cell Block in Durand on Friday, March 31. That afternoon, the group recognized the some of its dedicated learners, tutors, and volunteers.

That afternoon, 19 people were in attendance. The fourth annual luncheon began with a call to order and welcome by Yata Peinovich.

“Today’s focus will be those of you who have been successful in your learning, and we want to recognize your hard work,” said Peinovich. “We also want to recognize the tutors who have helped you along. We’re here because we believe in the value of good education, and language skills, financial skills, and all the things that come with that.”

Peinovich added that many adult learners face challenges as they balance their education, family life, and careers. He encouraged the learners in attendance to keep in touch with the BPLA, even after they have reached their initial goals, and stated that the BPLA is happy to help in any way possible.

The group then took time to recognize award recipients. First, Peinovich presented the Outstanding Student Award to David Opell, and the Outstanding Tutor Award to Opell’s tutor, Suzanne Ebersold. After working with Ebersold, Opell has earned his GED.

Next, the BPLA recognized the Outstanding Partner Agency, Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Lima, the site for a weekly English Language Learning (ELL) Center. Tutors at this location are Linda Schaub, Carol Bauer, and Luz Oritz, and the three tutors were recognized at the luncheon. The group meets on Sunday after mass. (Currently, the group usually meets from about 5 to 6 or 6:30 p.m.) There are different levels of study, ranging from beginning learners to more advanced learners. The learners study English, grammar, and basic math/money skills. On occasion, speakers also attend and share their knowledge. A program focusing on health literacy is currently in the works.

Bauer noted that she and the others greatly appreciate the church’s support. Oritz also thanked BPLA for the services they offer.

Next, Miguel Hernandez and Luisa Teople each received Outstanding English Language Learner awards. Both have recently advanced to the next level of their studies. Bauer provided an overview of the many areas that the learners have studied, and expressed her appreciation for their hard work.

Hernandez thanked Oritz, Bauer, and Schaub for their time and help. “They have helped us to learn English, and communicate better,” he said. “I am very thankful for the support.”

The group then recognized Outstanding Volunteer, Pete Adler. Adler volunteers each week in the Pepin County Jail, teaching a course on Financial Literacy. Adler shared that the experience has been educational for him, as well, as he connects with the inmates and learns about the struggles they face.

Following the award presentations, Treasurer Carol Bauer then gave the Treasurer’s Report, and noted that the BPLA is grateful for its many donations. Peinovich also gave a report on grant applications, and expressed gratitude for the Committee members who worked on grant writing. He also extended thanks to Outreach Coordinator Gwen Sweeney for her continued efforts.

Peinovich gave an update on recent BPLA activities and initiatives, including the BPLA’s recent move to the second floor of the Pepin County Government Center.

Before adjourning, the group also discussed goals for 2017. Goals include developing an ELL Learning Center in Alma, exploring a new location where childcare can be provided for learners, beginning job seeking classes in the Buffalo County Jail, and an upcoming fundraising activity (date to be announced.)

The next BPLA meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 8, at the Alma Library at 10 a.m.

The BPLA is a non-profit organization designed to provide literacy services to Buffalo and Pepin County, Wisconsin adults. For referrals or more information, contact 715-672-8859.

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