Archive for March 2nd, 2011

Project Second Chance is all about reading – adult reading.  It’s a program run out of the Contra Costa Library (based in Pleasant Hill, CA) where adults who would like a second (or third or hundredth) chance at learning to read, can get that chance.
The program is run by a small staff of dedicated administrators who match up volunteer tutors to the folks who walk in asking for help – asking for a second chance at learning to read.
The reasons people come in to learn to read are as varied as the reasons others volunteer to tutor.  Mainly it seems to be about frustration for the former and love for the latter.
I love reading and a couple of years ago, I became a volunteer tutor.  For whatever reason, I was not able to find a ready student to match up with, so I began volunteering in the computer lab one night a week.
Attendance was very hit and miss.  Some months I would go weeks with no one showing up.  Other weeks, I would have six or seven students to work on only five PCs.  Either way, it was almost always fulfilling to feel I was trying to give back a little bit to the world at large.
I stopped tutoring in the computer lab back in Dec 2010, just before the holidays and anticipating I was going out of town on a work trip.  Then, with my health problems, the trip never happened and I haven’t felt up to going back just yet.  But, the simple truth is I just miss it.  Every now and then I’d get to help someone and I would feel like I had made a tiny difference in their lives.  Nothing earth shattering.  Not a “life altering” event for them or me.  Just a little disturbance in the time-space continuum…
Today I got the monthly newsletter from Project Second Chance and it says they are in danger of losing up to 20% of their funding if Governor Brown’s proposed budget goes through.  It’s not clear if they will be able to raise enough funds from other sources to offset the losses and there is a real chance the program may have to be shut down.  That would sadden me.  It would sadden me that the handful of staff may be laid-off of work, but more than that, it would sadden me to think of the dozens of volunteers who won’t be able to give (as easily as they otherwise might) of their time in sharing their love of reading with the students who are walking in the door asking for help.
The newsletter doesn’t ask for money.  The newsletter asks you to write or call your state representative and ask them not to balance the budget on the backs of people who are struggling to work at a living wage because they are unable to read.  There are literally thousands of adults in the San Francisco Bay Area who are functionally illiterate today – right now – as I write and you read these words.    The cost of this lost human potential to our economy is a tragedy of enormous scale.  Project Second Chance estimates it has helped over 4,000 adult students reach their personal goals in improving their ability to read, write and spell.
I’m not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.  I don’t have a spare hundred dollars to donate to Project Second Chance – let alone a million dollars.  But, I do have fifty cents.  So, tonight I went on-line to my bank and I had them write a check and send it to Project Second Chance – for 50¢.  I encourage you to do the same.  The address is:
Project Second Chance
75 Santa Barbara Road (Street address)
1750 Oak Park Boulevard (Mailing address)
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
If you don’t live in Contra Costa County, or even in California, but you’d still like to make your own little disturbance in the time-space continuum, I would encourage you to look around in your home town to see if there is a program like Project Second Chance which could use your time (or 50¢ donation).  I am not asking you to donate over and over again (but if you can, why don’t you?)  You don’t have to give until it hurts.  You never know where the “tipping point” will be and your 50¢ may mean the difference for someone learning to love to read.
Share some love.  Donate 50¢.  You too can be a disturbance…

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My experiences suggest that the optimum way to run a research think tank would be to take people’s nice offices away from them and to make them live in garrets, and even to insist that they do non-research things.  That’s a strange way to run a research center, but it might well be true that the imposition of such constraints would bring out maximum creativity.
    —    Donald E. Knuth
From his book:  “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
[I think this suggestion would stimulate what I call “Background Processing“.  That is, force you to do the thinking you’re supposed to be doing in the back of your mind while the current moment forces you to think about other things.  In other words, it’s not the pressure (as suggested by Knuth), its the distractions which make this work.    —    KMAB]

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