Steve Swank: Using The Power of Literacy To Help Students Rise

After retirement from General Motors Corp. as a skilled tradesman, Steve Swank was determined to do something meaningful and rewarding. He heard about the Dominican Literacy Center on Detroit’s east side while listening to the radio. He contacted them and has never regretted that decision. He has now been a DLC volunteer for 10 years; one of 240 volunteers.

Swank volunteers for four hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, working one-on-one with two students for two hours at a time. “I must establish the way each student learns,” said Swank. “Each student is different. My first student was a 60-year- old man from Croatia.”

The Dominican Literacy Center focuses on adult literacy, helping adults compensate for what they missed while matriculating through traditional education. The center offers a wide variety of educational services for free to help its students improve their academic skills and enhance their career options.

“Our goal at DLC is to empower individuals to reach their academic, personal and career goals by providing one-to-one tutoring, small group and online instruction in reading, math, English as a Second Language and basic computer,” said , DLC Executive Director Kimberly Williams.

Swank tutors students in math, reading, social studies and history.

“It’s just amazing to see students succeed at something,” he said.

Marcella Davis was the first of 10 students he has helped graduate.

She never believed she would get her high school diploma. A friend encouraged her to take classes. They both enrolled in the GED program.

The closer Davis got to earning that coveted diploma the harder she worked. Even after her friend dropped out, Davis persevered.

“I took a computer class and fell in love with the computer lab at Dominican,” said Davis. “I was there all day every day. I was there so much they asked me to be a mentor, and then a volunteer while I was still taking classes. They really kept me busy, but it helped me to grow. The staff was so encouraging. They continued to tell me, you can do it. I had trouble with math. Steve was my math tutor.”

Davis earned her high school diploma on August 8, 2016. “I’ll never forget that date,” she said. “I was so proud. And in September, 2016 shortly after graduation, Dominican Literacy Center offered me the job of receptionist.” “If you’re not persistent you won’t get it,” Davis said. “If you are persistent you’ll get it.’’

Now 44 years old with six children, Davis was 40 years old when she received her high school diploma.  She completed her required courses in just six months. “I was at the center from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. almost every weekday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday until I finished,” said Davis.  “I’m now taking online computer courses at the Independent University.  I want to go into computer programing.”

Swank gets as much satisfaction, or more, as those he assists.

“I enjoy teaching because I like the fact that I can share what I know with others,” he said. “I think I’m good at presenting a lot of things in a lot of different ways so that students can learn.  Everyone learns differently.  The problem is the schools teach everyone the same way. Everyone doesn’t learn —the same.”

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