Making a difference in the future of others

LIHUE — Dennis Dresser and his wife have a soft heart when it comes to helping Kauaians learn to read, write and speak English.

“I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from teaching people and watching the bulb turn on,” said Dennis Dresser, coordinator for the adult Hawaii Literacy Program.

Each year for the past 10 years, the free program has enriched the language including Thai, Hispanic, Marshallese, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

“We just got our first Hawaiian-speaking student,” Dresser said. “And we’re about to get another.”

Dresser said the program can be a real benefit for those trying to secure better jobs on Kauai.

“Learning English can give them more money, better security and the ability to read a medicine bottle,” Dresser said.

One of his students spoke Spanish when he came into the Hawaii Literacy Program. Four-and-a-half years later, the student had made significant strides.

“He was a particularly good student,” Dresser said. “He really wanted to learn. By the time I’d finished with him, he sounded like a concierge at a high-end hotel. That gave me a deep personal satisfaction in my heart.”

The requirements for a tutor are that they should be able to speak, read and write English.

“Also they need to be caring and patient,” Dresser said.

But the literacy program is currently short of tutors.

“We have more students than we can handle,” Dresser said.

Each volunteer tutor in the program is given the tools during a two-day training to jump into teaching their assigned student. Each tutor is carefully matched to a student to maintain an ideal learning experience.

Anyone interested in volunteering to tutor in the Hawaii Literacy program, call 332-5544 or email A minimum of a six-month commitment is requested for tutors in order to make consistent progress. Call the same number if you are interested in becoming a student. There is no charge, except the cost of student workbooks, which are $11.25 each.

• Lisa Ann Capozzi, features and education reporter can be reached at


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