KINGMAN - When Alda Spaulding signed up in January to be tutored by the Kingman Area Literacy Program, she didn't know a thing about computers.
But what Spaulding, a 30-year resident of Kingman, did know was that she wanted to be able to take Certified Nursing Assistant classes at Mohave Community College. And to do that, she needed to be able to pass the computerized ACT Compass test.
So she made a quick phone call to KALP.
"When Alda joined, she hardly knew how to use a computer mouse," said tutor Marion Brillati, who spends two hours a day three times a week with Spaulding. "In fact, she had minus skills because she had bad anxiety and her hand was shaking so much she couldn't even hold the mouse. Now she's more comfortable with the computer."
Spaulding is one of almost 20 students now taking advantage of KALP, which began in September with one student and offers free tutoring to adults and children in reading skills improvement, GED preparation and English as a Second Language.
The number of volunteer tutors has grown from about 13 to almost 20 who spend anywhere from one to six hours a week with their students.
KALP was founded and is led by Christine Meisenheimer, a literacy advocate who moved here from Michigan. When she heard that Kingman's functional illiteracy rate is about 60 percent, she was aghast.
A functionally illiterate person cannot read or follow complex directions, fill out a job application or manage daily tasks that require reading and writing skills beyond a basic level.
KALP provides help with math, reading, computer skills and writing, and also offers encouragement to families who are home-schooling their children.
Trinity Brown, 9, a Golden Valley third-grader who is being home-schooled, used the program to increase her knowledge enough to test at a fourth-grade level on the California Achievement Test.
She recently graduated from weekly sessions with tutor Valli Smith, after focusing on reading and phonics.
"It was kind of hard, but it was fun, too," said Brown. "There was a lot of work I didn't know and I needed help with it. But I got better and better."
Meisenheimer said the tutors involved in the program have donated about 340 volunteer hours of time worth about $6,500 to the community since KALP began. Meisenheimer said her goal is to work herself out of a job as more students come in to be tutored and raise their literacy level.
"We really are doing well," said Meisenheimer. "And I'm ecstatic about that. Functional illiteracy is a recognized deficit in Mohave County and remedial training is definitely needed here.
"I don't think it's an intellectual deficit or that the people here are stupid. I just think there's a lack of focus on education."