By Neyssa Deriphonse
The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK)’s main objective is to provide fresh meals to patrons. It also runs the Adult Education and Work Preparedness program.
Adult Education provides literacy courses such as English as a Second Language (ESL), high school equivalency preparation and digital literacy. The digital literacy curriculum offers basic computer skills to patrons and enrolled students. TASK also has two labs which are used for recreational purposes.
The Work Preparedness Program readies students for job positions. It includes job search and resume writing training in addition to interview, time management, conflict and resolution workshops that benefit students’ career development.
TASK also connects with employers to host hiring drives each week. Mia Hart, who serves as the manager of the Adult Education and Work Preparedness program, shared that “companies such as Amazon and Fedex, UPS, Wayfare and various other agencies come in and hire on the spot.” Some other companies walk those interested through initial steps that would prepare them for job applications.
Hart explained that tutoring program volunteers are not required to have a background in teaching. “All volunteers are asked to be open minded, compassionate, patient, non-judgmental, flexible and adaptable,” she said. The patrons must be treated with care and feel safe during their learning experience so that they can celebrate every small step on their journey.
During the pandemic, the program transitioned to a virtual format. They acquired Google Workspace, which contains Google Classroom and Google Meet, in order to facilitate online classes.
It was a learning curve for the staff, tutors and students. Hart said they lost tutors given that some volunteers did not have the capacity to shift to a virtual platform. Existing students and those newly enrolled are paired with a tutor to complete their assignments virtually. Due to the convenience, some pairs remain one hundred percent virtual even today. TASK currently has options for in-person and hybrid tutoring services.
“It’s just an amazing program,” Hart said. “The peers and the way they encourage each other. The support of our volunteer tutors, donating their time and their hearts. Many of the pairings between tutors and students really evolve into friendships.”