Literacy Project: Students


As of October of 2005, we've had around 30 students that we've tutored ESL to since we recorded the first in September of 2004. They've come from different backgrounds: work environments-dairy farm, hog facility, farm fields, and homes taking card of their kids; cultual ethnicity-Mexican, Brazilian, Ecuadoran, Honduran, and Bulgarian; economic/job status-manager, vetrenarian, field-worker, etc; and age levels (18-60).

I had the opportunity to build relationships with them outside of the classroom through various means: game of baseball, soccer, community fairs, worshipping-praying or bible reading at a local church, watching movies or a television show, eating a meal in-outside, football games (MAHS &C/A Homecoming), playing various sports activities (e.g. table tennis, baseball, etc...), and taking one on a one-day trip to the Twin Cities-St. Paul!

{Morris Literacy Project Photo Gallery}>


Nikolay, who is from Bulgaria and works at a local hog farm facility, concentrates on a lesson being taught by Steve Sterud

Gillian, who is from Mexico takes a break from the Rosetta Stone software program

Luis, from Ecuador, is working hard in the "new" challenging Lesson 3 of the Rossetta Stone

Joanie (middle), who is from Brazil, works hard in reading with two great tutors-Steve (left) and Katie (right)

Marcelo, who is also from Brazil, has been with the class since the beginning of this year!


Ruth (far left) and Justin (far right)-both UMM Students-teaching one & one with Jackie and Denise, who are teaching non-ESL related material
*ESL volunteers help non-ESL learners both ABE/GED material too when ESL students are already getting tutored on Wednesday nights.

Tony, who is also from Bulgaria (referred by Nikolay, whose last day was January 11th of 2006) gives ESL tutor/photographer a hard question!

More Pictures...taken in May of 2006

Luciano (from Brazil) with his personal tutor/friend (Tessa)/host family member and Sunny (all around community resident)

Carlos (from Mexico) trying out the Rosetta Stone program

Tony, Chen (from China), and Tim (tutor)

Picture from September 5th 2006:

Ashlyn (tutor) w/ Luciano (from Brazil) and his host family member Tessa

Manuel (from Mexico) stops over after being gone (works 6p-6a at the dairy farm) for over 9 months (since Dec 05')

Natilya (from Ukraine)is one of our most recent new students, who started several weeks ago. She was told of this program from friend Totov "Tony"

Ashlyn, Tony, and Steve taking a break by getting to know one another

A couple of "newest" students (one of them related to an "old" student-Joanie) from Brazil on October 11th of 2006

Yurliy (newest student from Ukraine) and Tony learning together on Wednesday, Nov. 1st of 2006 after hanging out at the bana.

A "busy" night (Wednesday, November 15th of 2006) for UMM Student Volunteers:

Theresa McMemery (UMM Student) helps Luciano (Brazil) w/host family farmer (Tessa Mahoney)

Maria Hanson helps Tanya (Ukraine) as Nataliya (Ukraine) and Yuriy (Ukraine) cheers them on!

Zaq Clemens explains to Tony (Bulgaria) on some English grammmar (correcting some homework)

Steve (Morris ABE Coordinator) gives Tony more homework for next week!

Pizza Farewell Party for Luciano and Volunteer Appreciation on Wednesday, November 29th of 2006

*Luciano is the one with the Brazilian soccer team colors (yellow/green)

We had a record high of 18+ students (4 of them ESL). It was actually a emotional evening for Luciano, which he gave a "farewell speech" thanking all the volunteers that has taught him week by week. He will be heading to Wisconsin and will be keeping in touch with us on how he'll be doing !

{2007 Photo Gallery}

Congratulations and Farewell to long-time student...

Todor "Tony" Todorov from Bulgaria, whose last day was today (Wednesday, January 3rd of 2007). He'll be going home with his wife (7th and 8th) in separate days.

Spring Growth of New ESL Students!

It's been a long cold winter, which we haven't been getting much students (ESL, but GED we have). This past couple of weeks (since Spring officially started), we have been getting a lot; More than what Steve, Tessa, and I can handle. I had to call a volunteer (Ruth G.) "last minute" this past Wednesday because it was getting overbearing for Steve, Tessa, and I. Here are some pics of the latest new students...

Wednesday, March 21st of 2007

"Full-table" (l-r: Anonymous-GED student, ? -from Brazil, Estella-Mexico, ?-Brazil)

?-Brazil getting helped by a longer-time worker (from Brazil too)

Wednesday, March 28th of 2007

? and Miguel, both from Mexico

Ruth (tutor to the rescue-came last minute!) and Estella working on the Rosetta Stone software program

Just today (Friday, March 30th of 2007), I got a call from a manager of one of the dairy farms outside of Morris, who happens to be from the Philippines (my parents' homeland)!

On Wednesday, April 4th of 2007-The two new students from last week each brought a new student from the farm they work at.

All the students in one picture shot on another "busy" Wednesday!

Leopold (new) is from the Czeck Republic

-from Mexico Jose & Estella (background)
Pedro and Regilio-both from Mexico

Wednesday, May 16th 2007

left to right: ? (not a student, but a friend-from the Philippines!) and Fernando (from Brazil)

Wednesday, June 25th 2007

Wednesday, July 13th 2007

? has a friend (green shirt w/hat) from Brazil visiting

Wednesday, July 25th 2007

Aracely (wife) and Joel (husband-works in a pig farm outside of town) look up words from Rosetta Stone

Wednesday, August 15th 2007

After missing last week due to Community Ed stuff, we had a packed room this evening! We had a recorded 17 students (ESL and GED). Below is a picture of just some of the ESL students that kept me and Steve on our feet...

Octavio (top) and Ernesto (bottom) [both from the same city/town in Mexico]learn from the Rosetta Stone as I corrected their pre-test (measures their English skills)

Wednesday, September 12th of 2007

(no picture: Maria Jesus Rodriguez and Sandra-from Tamaulipas, Mexico-both currently reside with familes in Hancock, MN)

Wednesday, November 7th of 2007 <> We had a farewell pizza party for one of our students (Texiera-Brazil)...



  • Education Technology Survey, sent by the Minnesota Literacy Council (Dec 06')

  • Return to Morris Literacy Project

    This Program is Dedicated to all the Volunteers

    -Ashley Laliberte (UMM Alumn 05')
    -Garret Jorgenson (former UMM Student 04'-05')
    -Emily Stout (UMM Student 04'-05') [Katherine E. Sullivan Scholarship 07' recipient]
    -Spanish Club 04'-05'
    -Kathy (UMM Alumn 06')
    -Amiee (UMM Soccer Club athlete 05'-present)
    -Justin Greimen (UMM Student Winter of 06'-present)
    -Ruth Greimen (UMM Alumn 06')
    -Maria (UMM Studennt Fall of 06'-present)
    -Zaq (UMM Student Fall of 06'-present)
    -Theresa McMerry (sp?-UMM Student Fall of 06'-present)
    -Tim Mitchell (community member; since 06'-present) -Ashley Rinkenberger (community member; since spring of 06'-present)
    -Bonnie and mom
    -Professor Solvie
    -Luke (UMM Student Fall of 07')
    -many others in the past before the Morris Literacy Project restarted in the Fall of 04'



  • End of Year Volunteer Report Due June 2, 2008, from
  • Online-Interview on September 28th of 2006

    w/Judy Korn of UMM Alumni Relations for "The Profile"

    1. Are you still working for Divine House and Prairie Community Services?

    Yes, part-time only and on-call (whenever they need me and according to my time of availability). I work full-time (part-time temporarily starting on Dec of 99' and became full-time in May) at the Stevens County D.A.C.

    2. 1999 Liberal Arts for Human Services major, right?

    Yes (focus on Public-Administration within LAHS)

    3. How did you make all those networking connections to get the Literacy program started in Morris? Did you work with Community Education? Alexandria Literacy Council? Spanish Club?

    I was shopping (first at Willies and then City Centre Drug) in Morris when I met Leonardo (only Non-Mexican migrant worker I�ve met so far from the dairy farm, who is from Honduras) and other of his co-workers twice within the month in September of 2004. It was then when he asked me if I could teach English to him, which I responded -"hablo poco espanol" ("I speak little Spanish"). I was walking around UMM's Campus when I saw the "Spanish Club" sign. On a Sunday evening when the Spanish Club was meeting, I met Ashley and told her this request from Leonardo. Earlier, I e-mailed Morris' Community Ed Director (Cindy Perkins-connection through Morris Leadership Retreat 04'), she referred me to contact Steve Sterud. Ashley and I met with Steve over this and came about restarting (this program existed before when students met at Assumption Catholic Church a couple/several years ago prior to 2004) the Morris Literacy Project. Our first official meeting was Sunday, September 26th of 2004 when we introduced Leonardo to the others. Ever since, many students from different backgrounds and professions (e.g. dairy farmers, vetrenarians, home makers, etc�) from different work environments (e.g. dairy farms, pig farms, local field farms, residential homes, etc�) have been coming in.
    Also, to add..the COPC Grant that was awarded 1 1/2 years ago has been a catalyst in this partnership. Particularly, the COPC: Community Dialogue Series, which I'm a co-chair. I"ve been sharing my experience of the project and we are currently in pursuit of a survey to give to migrant workers and how the community of Morris can better "welcome" them.

    3. Where is the classroom?

    We used to meet both at campus (Multi-Ethnic Resource Center) and the high school when we started in 2004. We then just moved to once a week due to the time constraints (from both students and tutors) and we meet now at the newly built Elementary School when it opened last Fall of 2005.

    4. Where did you get funding for the software...and the computers?

    Minnesota Literacy Council (state budget)-Alexandria Runestone Learning Center provides the labtops (3 total now) and the computers (2 of them) that exist at the Elementary School. Walmart donated $200-250 gift certificate that we used to purchase some materials (e.g. electronic translator).

    5. Why did you invest your time and energy into this project? What's your reward?

    I grew-up watching the hardships (e.g. teased) my mom and dad went through in their transition to America as immigrants from the Philippines (3rd most populated English speaking country). Then I saw the challenges others (e.g. Hmong refugees and other immigrants) faced growing-up in St. Paul's diverse public schools. Due to the lack of resources in these parts of rural Minnesota, I want to share what I've been blessed (e.g. education) with others. I loved (still do as a liasion to the community: church or public places and campus: Center for International Programs through Tom McRoberts) meeting international students at UMM when I was a student and this project continues this diverse ethnic relationships after UMM. We teach them and I learn from them too-it's a two way teaching and learning lesson (e.g. learn Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and recently-Chinese for free!) for both students and the volunteer tutors! This is where the reward comes from!

    Phone Interview on Thursday, November 30th of 2006 with KMRS Radio

    I had an unexpected call Thursday afternoon after work from KMRS/KKOK 1230 AM/97.7 FM Radio w/Katie Mackenzie (interviewed me earlier at the annual UMM Int'l Country Fair earlier this month). They wanted to interview me about the Morris Literacy Project, which was an excellent oopportunity for "PR" advertisement to recruit the much needed volunteers.

    Just to add a note: This project cannot be possible without the campus-community relationship that's been growing over the years! Steve Sterud of Morris Community Ed is in constant contact with Stacey Aronson of UMM's Spanish Language Department for need of UMM student volunteers (we can always use them on Wednesday evenings @6-9p. Anyone is welcome to come and see what we do anytime!) since we "re-started". I also have been in contact with the local faith community of various needs (e.g. Assumption Catholic Church-1st Saturday of the month mass/service in Spanish; Morris Community Church-volunteer tutors) . Also, our volunteers not only help with the ESL part, but also the ABE (Adult Basic Education)/GED-helping those get a high school diploma!

    Media Publications

  • Univeristy of Minnesota-Morris "Profile" Fall of 2006
  • Sal Monteagudo '99 networks for newcomers to Morris community Posted by Judy Korn on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006

  • "A chance meeting in 2004 in Willie�s Super Valu in Morris led to UMM graduate Sal Monteagudo�s involvement with the Minnesota Literacy Council. An active community volunteer, his special interest is helping newcomers to the Morris area. When Leonardo, a native of Honduras, stopped him in the grocery-store aisle and asked if he could teach English, he wasn�t surprised.
    Monteagudo answered, �Hablo poco Espa�ol.� While he didn�t have the resources to provide English lessons, he wasn�t discouraged. The expert networker began telling Leonardo�s story, first at a UMM Spanish Club meeting, then at Morris Community Education. The result was the rebirth of the then-defunct Morris Literacy Project.
    Since then, the program has served 30 people, ages 18 to 60, from many different countries�Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, China, Russia, Ecuador and Bulgaria. Volunteers, many of whom are UMM students studying Spanish�and Monteagudo, tutor the English-as-a-second-language students.
    �I grew up watching the hardships my mom and dad went through in their transition to America as immigrants from the Philippines,� he shares. �I saw the challenges that Hmong refugees and other immigrants face growing up in St. Paul schools. I want to share what I�ve been blessed with�my education�with others.�
    The program volunteers and students meet at the Morris Area Elementary School. The Minnesota Literacy Council and the Alexandria Runestone Learning Center provided computers and software.
    A 2005 Minnesota Literacy Council Outstanding Volunteer Award recipient, Monteagudo is quick to point out that the Morris Literacy Project is successful because of the efforts of many. He states: �This project would not be possible without the campus-community relationship that�s been growing over the years!�
    Monteagudo is a member of the Morris Human Rights Commission, a graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program, and served on the Morris All-American City committee. The 1999 UMM graduate, a liberal arts for human services major, is employed by the Stevens County Developmental Achievement Center.

    Donations Welcome to Support the Literacy Project in Morris
    *please note: "Morris Literacy Project"
    Thank you very much!

    Return to Goodnews Morris: Literacy Project

    This Page is Dedicated to:
    Katy Mohabir

    After nearly 30 years, a very special teacher retires
    By Celeste Beam, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press Published Friday, June 22, 2007
    " It�s hard to tell who is going to miss whom the most � the students or their mentor.
    Many students at the Runestone Regional Learning Center (RRLC) in Alexandria are sad that its coordinator � Katy Mohabir � is retiring.
    Her last day is June 26.
    Janae Ascheman of Alexandria, who graduated from the RRLC this past April, said, �Katy was like a second mom to me. I could talk to her about anything.�
    Ascheman said she is sad to see Mohabir leaving, but that she feels the retirement is well-deserved.
    �The RRLC was like a big family and Katy was always there for us,� said Ascheman.
    The 61-year-old Mohabir is also sad, yet slightly happy, that after nearly 30 years of working with students, she is moving on.
    She knows she will miss working with students � students who are hard working and are not the �losers� some people think they are.
    Mohabir said there is a preconceived notion that the RRLC is for �bad kids,� but she said it�s simply not true.
    �The students may be different, they may not fit the mold, but they are not bad,� she stressed. �Our students are good kids�they work hard and study hard, and they try to keep their academic standards high.�
    Although she may not get to know each and every student personally, Mohabir said that fortunately, she gets to witness the �end product� � when students, who may not have made it in a regular school setting, receive their high school diploma on time.
    �We see the successes. We know that we�ve made a difference and most of the students are not afraid to tell us,� she said. �Many will say that we [the teachers, staff and Mohabir] saved their life.�
    Mohabir remembered how one student, who now works for the Microsoft Corporation, stopped by to visit recently.
    �She told me, �I always think of you on Mother�s Day.� That is what I am going to miss after I retire,� she said. �You don�t ever really realize the impact you have on the students.
    �Knowing that I made a difference, that the program here made a difference�those are the greatest success stories,� she said.
    The modest Mohabir doesn�t like to take credit for the successes of students who attend the RRLC. She said staff members and teachers work hard and love the �unique� students who attend the center.
    �I just love those one-of-a-kinders!� she boasted.
    And they love her.
    Kayla Weber, an 18-year-old from Alexandria who attended the RRLC for three years, graduated earlier this month with her class at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria.
    �There is no way I could have graduated without Katy,� said Weber. �She was always there for me. She always helped me and I could talk to her about anything.�
    Weber added that she finished attending the RRLC on May 21 and has already been back to visit � 12 times.
    Weber, the mother of 2-year-old Landon, feels that if she would have remained in the traditional school setting, she wouldn�t have been able to graduate on time.
    �Katy helped me. I love Katy and I am really sad that she is retiring,� said Weber, who will soon be moving to Fargo, North Dakota to attend college. �I am going to miss them [the teachers and staff at RRLC] so much�especially Katy.�
    Katie Hawkinson of Alexandria said she wishes Mohabir wasn�t retiring.
    �It�s a bummer to know that she is leaving,� said Hawkinson. �She is such a nice lady and is so helpful. She treats you like you are a normal person.�
    Hawkinson said learning at the RRLC was different than a regular school. She even called it fun � something she wouldn�t have said prior to going to the center.
    She recalled the time when Mohabir called her to tell her she needed to take the Basics Skills Test � something no one else would have done.
    �Katy is a caring person. She would do anything for anybody. She is not judgmental at all,� said Hawkinson, who added that she is now on track to graduate next year.
    Mohabir, a single mother of three grown chidren, feels that her past experiences have helped her to be accepting of others and non-judgmental.
    �I have always wanted to help people,� the former Peace Corps member said.
    In the past 30 years, she helped more than 14,000 people receive their GED.
    �It has been really rewarding knowing that I had a hand in that. Those are the moments I will always remember,� she said.
    Alan Zeithamer, a School District 206 board member and member of the Runestone Area Education District, which heads the RRLC, said, �Katy has dedicated herself to students and their improvements. She gave hope and success to students � both young and old. The board wishes to thank Katy for all her years of dedication and service and we wish her nothing but the best.�
    A retirement open house for Katy Mohabir is planned for next Tuesday, June 26 at the Runestone Regional Learning Center from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be a short program to honor her beginning at 2:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend the open house retirement party.
    The center is available for any qualified students 16 years of age or older who need to complete their high school education and earn either a diploma or a GED (high school equivalency), or for anyone who needs to learn basic skills or English as a second language. Students can attend the center and also hold jobs. An on-site nursery is available for students who are parents. Classes operate on a continuous basis (including daytime and evening classes) and are free. Middle level programs are also available in the Minnewaska and Osakis school districts and at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria. The Runestone Regional Learning Center is located at 817 Fillmore in Alexandria."

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