Hundreds of students come through the Aberg Center for Literacy at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in East Dallas every year.
Most of them are learning English or preparing for a GED exam. Their classes are totally free and even include childcare.
The church leases the second floor of its annex to the Aberg Center at no charge. Other than that, the organization relies on two things to offer its services: individual donations and volunteers.
“The thing that really drives this ESL and GED prepprogram are the people who are willing to get involved,” executive director Teri Walker says.
About 50 volunteers teach classes every week at the center, and there are about 170 volunteers altogether.
One of them is Kenny Rogers, a White Rock-area resident and a partner in a big Dallas law firm. He carves out an hour a week to teach math at the Aberg Center. Rogers became involved as a member of St. Matthews, and he’s been volunteering for about eight years now.
“I am very impressed with the women and men who attend the school and want to improve their skills and make something better for themselves and their families,” he says. “I just admire their commitment to do something better.”
Most volunteers at the center give similar testimony: It is inspiring to be part of something so meaningful in the lives of other people.
Lon Rogers is a retired physician who taught at the UT Southwestern Medical School. He enjoys teaching at the Aberg Center perhaps more, he admits, than he liked teaching medical students.
“I get more out of it than they do,” he says.
Since he started teaching reading at the center three years ago, he has developed his own curriculum. With the help of his students, he has created two workbooks: “TenPlusTwenty” and “Easy Does It!” The books consist of fictional stories, which Rogers wrote, followed by questions related to the narrative and vocabulary. Anyone can use the books at Rogers’s website, tenplustwenty.com.
“He’s very passionate about it,” Walker says. “I told him we could pay for the printing costs, and he said, ‘Oh, no, it’s my gift.’ ”
Rogers appreciates his students so much that he lists their names in the acknowledgements of “Easy Does It!” They are his editors and his inspiration. During a recent class, a student noticed a mistake in one of the books.
“That’s why I need your help,” Rogers said.
Why does he enjoy volunteering at the Aberg Center so much?
“Look at them,” he says, waving a hand around the classroom. “They’re wonderful people.”
The center recently added childcare for students, and it’s not just babysitting. The center hired childcare professionals to come up with curriculum for the little ones, too.
It costs about $1,200 per year, including childcare, to educate one student, Walker says.
To help raise money, the center is adding a 10-week Spanish class, taught by instructors from Richland College. The class costs $120 and will meet on Monday nights starting in January.
“So we’ll have students who are learning English and students who are learning Spanish all in the same place,” Walker says. “There’s a real community sense here. It’s exciting to see.”
• For information on volunteering, or to enroll in Spanish classes, contact abergcenter.org or 214.826.6501.
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