Linda Green teaches others to read with help from best friend
Note to readers: The “South Side Achiever” feature about Linda Green of The Newland Center, as published in the November issue of The Stand, includes an error as well as information that should be clarified. The error has to do with the origin of the R.E.A.D. program; the other information has to do with “therapy pets” used in the program. Read a Letter to the Editor that explains the issues; it was edited for space.
A distinct dog odor permeates the old house at 1443 E. Genesee St., home of The Newland Center, a nonprofit organization that provides literacy instruction to adults on Syracuse’s near South Side. It’s no wonder, given that Linda Green, the director of the center, has a soft spot for animals.
“If you can’t tell, I’m an animal lover,” Green said as she peered down at the rescue puppy cowering under her desk. “Romeo is afraid of people, but he’s great. He loves ice cream, filet mignon and ‘Good Morning America.’”
Students fell in love with Romeo, too, and their interest in Green’s dog sparked the idea for the center’s Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. The mission of the R.E.A.D program is to demonstrate how registered therapy pets and their handlers can improve literacy skills in a positive and less intimidating manner.
“People don’t realize the benefits that dogs can do for them,” Green said. “They really help to ease the students through their reading.”
R.E.A.D. is one of many projects that Green created since she became director in 2004, following the death of founder Phyllis Newland.
Alberta Whitaker, a bus driver for 17 years, began studying at The Newland Center a year ago. Whitaker said she has learned a lot about herself and her reading skills in just one year.
“You see old people and young people getting a good education and getting on with life, and it makes you feel good,” she said. “I really love the teachers here. They work with me and try to encourage me.”
On a budget just under $80,000, which comes from donors and grants, Green works with volunteer office staff and tutors to promote adult literacy by tapping into her personal interests. She finds ways to incorporate those interests as part of The Newland Center’s learning process.
“It’s a creative way of working with what you’ve got,” she said.
Green’s own life struggles led her to teach. She attended 11 different schools yet managed to graduate from high school a year early. She earned a degree in early childhood education from Columbia College, but didn’t take her interest seriously until she began homeschooling her own children Michael, now 30, and Melissa, now 27.
After going through a divorce and struggling to understand her own life goals, Green turned to the Women’s Opportunity Center in Syracuse in 1999. It is an organization that helps displaced homemakers enter the work force after divorce, separation or widowhood. Through the women’s center, Green met Phyllis Newland, who put her to work as a volunteer.
Green’s daughter, Melissa Green, described her mother’s work ethic. “My mom has tried to keep Phyllis’ dream alive and has given up a lot to stay and make sure the students and tutors are taken care of.
“As a child I often slept on the blue chairs waiting for my mom, who worked to make sure everything was done efficiently,” Green’s daughter said. “She gave of her time and energy to making sure that everyone had the individualized attention they needed and
Kim Jakway, a volunteer at the center who tutors and leads a weekly book club, said her relationship with Green and the students keeps her coming back.
“Linda is an unbelievably hard-working person,” she said. “She just has that community spirit of wanting to help everyone.”
Green helps in little ways, too. “We try not to turn anyone away,” Green said, as she scoured the refrigerator for a bottle of Mountain Dew for Ryan, a student searching for something to quench his thirst.
“I believe in second chances,” she said. “Can someone else do it better? Probably. But I’m trying to do the best I can with what we’ve got.”
For more information, contact The Newland Center by phone at (315) 471-1446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until noon Friday