When Employment Skills Center marked its 50th anniversary this month, Executive Director Margi Weitzel credited tutors like Michael Donato for playing a critical role in the success of the center’s programs.
Carlisle’s Employment Skills Center started as a branch operation to Harrisburg’s Opportunities Industrialization Center in January 1967. Within two years, the program had expanded and received so much support that it moved to facilities once occupied by the Carlisle Commercial College above the theater downtown.
More than 20,000 people have been helped through the nonprofit adult education and training agency, and Donato has been responsible for assisting 80 of them as a tutor for the center’s GED programs.
Q. How did you connect with Employment Skills Center and become a tutor?
After having been a public school administrator in the Derry Township schools in Hershey, I and my wife moved to Carlisle to be closer to my son, Scott, and his family. At that time, wanting to remain active in working with students and adults, I came upon the Employment Skills Center. That was 20 years ago, and since then I have tutored 80 students from 33 countries ranging in age from 16 to 50.
Q. Would you share a particularly memorable story from tutoring?
It is quite difficult to try and point out just one story because some have secured American citizenship, others were in the process of buying a home, some were assisted in finding a job, etc. One individual that I worked with very closely was a young man from France who had just married an American woman. This gentleman was a physical therapist in France, but upon arriving in the United States, he was not permitted to serve as a physical therapist until he had completed quite a bit of collegiate academic work. I worked very closely with this individual not only with his speaking skills, but also with the writing skills necessary to complete all of the collegiate academic written assignments that he was required to complete to get the necessary accreditation. This gentleman, I am proud to say, is now on the staff at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill and we do stay in contact. He has become a very close friend.
Q. What is the greatest challenge in tutoring adults?
A. In my experience, almost all of my tutoring situations could more aptly be called counseling situations. I say this because no matter what texts we use or what words are being studied, they invariably provoke many questions pertaining to many of their needs. And the better I was able to address their needs, the better the comprehension of the words studied. Determining the needs is the challenge.
Q. What qualities make a good tutor?
A. I would say that the better a tutor or counselor can identify the academic, psychological and social needs of the student, the better one can assist in helping that person toward a positive development. It helps greatly if a tutor can make the student as comfortable as possible in the relationship, and of course a nice sense of humor does help a great deal.
Q. What words of encouragement would you offer people who are considering pursuing a GED?
A. A very basic requirement for the entrance into a decent paying job is a high school diploma, and if you do not have that, then of course it would be wise to try and get a GED. And of course that would be just a beginning. Once employed anywhere, I think they will find that the more education they receive, whether technical or academic, the more compensation and the more benefits they will receive. So I would recommend it very strongly.