Lois Park began tutoring with an adult literacy program in Helena, Arkansas, in 1984 at age 67. Her husband, a minister for 45 years, died in 1981, leaving her with “time on her hands.” Perhaps the thing that inspired her most was realizing that most of the farmhands who worked for them were illiterate. One of these men refused to let any of his children go to school. As those children became young adults, two died untimely deaths because they could not read. One died in Little Rock as he drove the wrong way down a one-way street. The other suffered fatal burns from a kerosene explosion because he did not know what was in the can.
Park received her volunteer tutor training at Phillips Community College in Helena. She soon learned that the illiteracy rate in the county was 80 percent. The local postmaster told her that he was asked to read mail aloud for many local citizens. After her training was complete, her first class started on a Monday night with an assigned student. On Thursday night, three students attended. In a short time, her class grew to include 22 students, most friends and family of the first, assigned student.
Park’s students were primarily non-readers, ranging in age from 17 to 84. Several had never attended school. They met twice a week from 6 until 10 p.m. on Monday and Thursday nights. From this group, two graduated from college and became teachers. Many others have jobs today. Most of her older students came because they wanted to learn to read their Bibles. Park was able to oblige since, as an unpaid volunteer, she was not restricted by any guidelines or restrictions.
When Park moved to Grenada, Mississippi, in 1995 to be near her family, she immediately resumed her volunteer efforts. She promptly contacted the Grenada League for Adult Development. She has worked one-to-one with three adult learners since that time – a disabled female in her early forties, and two males, one in his late thirties and one in his late forties. Her current student began as a non-reader in March of 1998 and has progressed to the third reading level. He has also started building a personal library at home. Park encourages each of her students to do his or her personal best. Many times her students have surprised themselves by how well they can learn.
Park has volunteered well over 200 hours since she moved to Grenada. She also belongs to a number of organizations and civic clubs. As an 83-year-old, and despite health problems, she continues to serve and help others build their basic skills. She often says that helping people to function on a higher level has been all of the thanks that she needs.