News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Valley Life

June 9, 2013

Educational/Family Services receives award for literacy efforts

On April 26, Educational/Family Services in West Terre Haute was awarded the Edward N. Howard Literacy Award by the Wabash Valley Literacy Coalition.

The award, given annually since 1991, recognizes an individual, organization or group that has significantly contributed to literacy efforts in the Wabash Valley.

The award is named for a past director of the Vigo County Public Library who was literacy advocate.

EFS, at 3850 U.S. 150, offers free basic education and GED preparation to adults and free tutoring to children. EFS is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence and a part of Guerin Outreach Ministries.

EFS was chosen as this year’s award recipient for its impact on the community, providing a direct-service literacy program, fundraising to sustain its services, serving on the Wabash Valley Literacy Coalition, and serving the needs of both young and adult learners, free of charge, said Susan Jakaitis, manager of the LifeLong Learning Center at the library and treasurer for the Literacy Coalition.

She says the impact she has seen made by Educational/Family Services has been huge. She’s energized by what they do, so much so that she nominated them for the award. “They have done a marvelous job in reaching out in a community that has great need,” Jakaitis said.

She is quick to pull out statistics: 25 percent of school children in the West Terre Haute area have special needs.

More than 60 percent receive free lunches. Jakaitis says EFS does great work in meeting the needs of an at-risk population.

She points out touching success stories and how the children tutored are motivated by a small toy or just by having the attention of an adult who encourages them to do well in school.

EFS also models for the parents or guardians’ involvement in their children’s education. This is important because illiteracy can be an intergenerational issue, Jakaitis said.

“I really see them as champions of literacy in the community. And not just for children, but for adult literacy as well,” she said.

“I can’t say enough good things about what they do in West Terre Haute. And the fact that they are supported by the Sisters of Providence, I think that really needs to be out there.”

The success of EFS is evident in the students who receive help there.

Delia Drisko’s son, Dustin, is nearly 26. He has been diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and learning disabilities. Since January, Dustin has been receiving private instruction with EFS director Penny Sullivan.

He has improved his reading to about a third-grade level. He’s working on sentence structure, word usage and basic life skills including using money. Delia says that Dustin has two goals: to get his driver’s license and to someday get his GED.

Educational/Family Services is helping him reach those goals.

“I think programs like this need to be in place as a support to keep the structure going as people with cognitive developmental delays and mental disabilities] progress in life,” Delia said. “Because they grow and mature differently than others, if they do not have this type of structure, they often fail because they do not know how to get the structure on their own.”

For more information about Educational/Family Services, from volunteer opportunities to how to sign up for tutoring, call 812-535-4206 or email or visit

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