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Meet Kyra

Volunteer of the Month August 2014fo_vol_august 14

Kyra C. is a rising senior at Soquel High School and has been volunteering at Friends Outside for almost two years.  She is passionate about history, politics, and social justice, particularly with regards to violence against women and incarcerated individuals.

Besides Friends Outside, she volunteers as a Teen Representative on the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women of Santa Cruz City. In her free time she enjoys playing piano and drums, as well as reading about history. She plans on majoring in international relations and attending a university in the Washington D.C. area.

Kyra is an amazing help to our organization. She has lent her hand in many ways from office assisting, database entry, research, events, responding to green slips and more.

 Thank you from everyone at Friends Outside!

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Literacy Trainers


BTD 2012- Char Char Bridenbaugh-   “The work that is done by the Literacy Program empowers people, and I believe that it is through this type of empowerment that greater social justice in the world will come about. It is very personally satisfying to me to be involved in this process of empowering people.”

Char has been associated with the Literacy Program since 1997. During that time she has worked both individually and in small groups as a tutor for ESL students and individually with basic literacy students, most of whom have had learning disabilities. In 1999, she initiated a series of monthly in-service training meetings for program tutors, and she coordinated this service for two years.   Currently, in addition to tutoring, Char serves on the program’s Advisory Committee,  is chair of the Tutor Training Team and is a ProLiteracy certified trainer.  Char’s professional experience is in the field of education, beginning as a public school first grade teacher in Illinois, then moving on to California and the field of special education, where she worked in a speech and learning clinic first as a learning disabilities specialist and later as clinic co-director and program director for an adult literacy program for learning disabled adults. She has taught graduate students in the special education teacher preparation program at Santa Clara University, and for ten years she had a local private practice as Educational Therapist for dyslexic children.

 Literacy- KrissenKrissen Lane- “After retiring, I missed the camaraderie and sense of purpose that I had enjoyed as a teacher. When I joined the Literacy Program, I found not only that but also a deep sense of personal satisfaction in working with my students. I find their motivation and progress inspiring, and I enjoy learning more about their lives and culture as well as discovering the commonality of our experience and ideas.”

Krissen joined the Literacy Program in February of 2005. Since then, she has tutored individually with several highly motivated students and two small classes in Watsonville. In addition to her tutoring, Krissen serves on the program’s Advisory Committee and the Tutor Training Team and attends the Tutor Workshops for more inspiration. Krissen is a ProLiteracy certified trainer.Before she retired in 2004, Krissen taught elementary school for 27 years in the Live Oak and Scotts Valley School Districts. As a primary grade teacher, she has extensive experience teaching phonics and comprehension strategies to developing readers, as well as in the areas of curriculum development and lesson planning. She finds it satisfying to be able to utilize her previous teaching skills along with new techniques for teaching adults that she has learned from the Literacy Program.

CarolCarol Curlett- “After leaving the classroom, I wanted to continue teaching and thought working with adult literacy would be challenging and interesting.  I had no idea how rewarding and satisfying it would be. I have learned so much from my students about their lives, traditions and their countries. It’s been more rewarding than I ever expected.  I’m so glad to be a part of The Literacy Program.”

Carol began volunteering with the Literacy Program in January 2008.  After enjoying tutoring for several months and realizing the value of our Literacy Program, she wanted to help involve more people by becoming a member of the Tutor Training Team. Carol has tutored individuals and classes in workplace literacy programs.  She helped start a program for 12 students at a conference center in Felton and has tutored 8 employees for two years at a Watsonville Rest home.  She finds small class settings are a wonderful way to teach several students at once. She also serves as the Mentor Coordinator, recruiting and assisting mentors for new tutors.Carol has taught elementary school in every grade level from Kindergarten to Fifth.  After 28 years of teaching, she retired in 2006.  In her career, she worked as a Master Teacher for student teachers and as a new teacher mentor and trainer as well as a literacy coach for the Moreland School District.

Rebecca Jot- “The Literacy Program has brought me the opportunity to get back into teaching ESL, which I find extremely fulfilling. In addition, I am able to use my life experience to serve as an ambassador of US culture and hopefully smooth the way a bit for my student.”

Rebecca joined the Literacy Program in March 2011. She was paired with her wonderful student, Carol, in May 2011 and the two are still going strong. Prior to moving to Santa Cruz County in 1998 with her French husband and baby daughter, Rebecca taught English to adult professionals in Paris, France. She has over 10,000 hours of classroom experience from her 10 years living abroad. She earned both the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and the DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) .Since her return to the US, Rebecca’s main focus has been on raising her daughter and son. She has also volunteered in her kids’ elementary classrooms, served on the board of the Rio del Mar Parent Alliance fundraising group for 3 years and the Rio Del Mar Elementary Site Council for 2 years, tutored French, and worked for Rio del Mar as a Yard Supervisor. Rebecca enjoys cardio dance, reading about nutrition (much to the dismay of her teenage kids), plotting out long sightseeing walks in a new city, and learning/reading/ speaking/watching all things French.

Genie Dee- “We have some of the most talented and dedicated volunteers I have ever worked with; and to hear the stories of the progress of our students is truly inspiring. I love working here and providing support to our tutors and students.”

Genie Dee, Program Director, has been with the program since November, 2011. She comes to us with a background in grant writing, fundraising, and non-profit administration. She worked for 3½ years at Pathways Home Health and Hospice in Sunnyvale as their grantwriter before coming to the Literacy Program. Genie also served as the Development Director for Watsonville Wetlands Watch, an environmental non-profit, for 3 years, ran the Saratoga Senior Center for 3½ years, and prior to that ran a low-income senior housing facility in Palo Alto, ran her own business with her husband, Ron, and worked in water conservation for the City of San Jose. She has a B.A. in Social Work from the University of Nebraska and an MBA from San Jose State. Genie and Ron have 5 grown children, two grandchildren, and two cats. They live on acreage in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Genie’s hobbies are writing, reading, swimming, scuba diving, cooking, gardening, and giving parties! She also tutors a young couple, Maira and Felix, as a volunteer, which she finds very rewarding.




Meet Juan

Volunteer of the Month July 2014


Juan is originally from Oxnard, CA but has been living in Santa Cruz for five years. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a double bachelor of arts in Psychology and Latin American and Latino Studies.

Currently, he is working as a Mental Health Coordinator in Santa Cruz County.  Juan has been volunteering for Friends Outside since January of 2014 and has been assisting with linking clients to resources that are available in the community.

According to Juan, he has found his volunteering experience to be very beneficial and he enjoys making a difference in people’s day and helping others reach their personal goals

Thank you Juan - you help make the mission of Friends Outside possible!