BY ANNE MARIE SMIT
Since 1977, the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) VITAL program—Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners—has provided free literacy instruction for adults, both native speakers and new language learners. And each April since 1983, VITAL has hosted a Quiz Bowl fundraiser for the program. The 36th annual event will be held April 15–18 in the MCPL auditorium, 303 E. Kirkwood.
“The Quiz Bowl serves a dual purpose—to raise funds and to raise awareness for adult literacy in our community,” says Bethany Turrentine, VITAL coordinator.
As of November 2018, VITAL learners had received 13,401 hours of free tutoring services, which helped more than 6,500 learners reach their personal goals, such as passing driving and citizenship tests, career advancement, or simply improving math or language skills.
The tournament consists of 32 teams of four individuals from nearly every sector of the community—churches, businesses, philanthropic organizations, families, and students. The Jeopardy!-like competition covers topics ranging from art, history, and literature to science and geography.
Initial rounds will be held April 15–16. Semifinals will be April 17, with the final competition on April 18. Community Access Television Services (CATS) will broadcast the tournament live, but community members are encouraged to come and support contestants in the auditorium.
The fundraiser provides training, supplies, the cost of tests, and even transportation fees for those who can’t easily commute to the library. Turrentine says VITAL provides a safe, respectful learning environment for adults of all ages, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds, and says she has witnessed its impact firsthand.
“I’ve seen parents gain the ability to read to their children or talk with their children’s teachers, workers learn how to fill out job applications and gain employment, and other personal dreams, like reading well enough to be able to join a gospel choir,” Turrentine says. “When people experience a positive learning environment, they begin to believe that they can learn. It changes the narrative from ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m afraid’ to ‘I’m going to try something new.’”
Registration for Quiz Bowl begins in early February. Cost is $45 per individual or $180 per team, and team sponsorships are welcome. For more information and to register, visit magbloom.com/vitalquizbowl.