Resident Feature

Project Second Chance provides life-long skills

When I moved to Walnut Creek 7 years ago from Oakland, I was looking for a volunteer activity to get involved in. Since I worked in Walnut Creek in Commercial Real Estate for 26 years, I had attended numerous fundraisers for Project Second Chance (PSC). I always thought it was a great program. As an avid reader, with time on her hands, I decided it would be good to help someone else experience the joy of reading that I have. I took my tutor training about 6 years ago and have since put in over 1,000 hours of volunteer time. My first student had a learning disability. She and I worked together for 3 1/2 years. She gained so much confidence that she went on to speak at literacy events and participate in the PSC 3-day leadership seminar as a student one year and a presenter the next. My current student is an ESL student, new to the United States. It is a totally different experience. She too has gained confidence to volunteer in her son’s school, make new friends, talk to contractors/repairmen, etc. I made new friends and helped them gain skills….how much more rewarding can it get? Here is some information on Project Second Chance……please consider joining me as a tutor. 

Project Second Chance is Contra Costa County Library’s adult literacy program. With the assistance of volunteer tutors, the program provides free, confidential, one-on-one basic English reading and writing to adults in Contra Costa County, serving all communities within the Contra Costa County Library system. 

Library literacy programs emerged in the early 1980’s in response to the nation-wide adult literacy crisis. In 1984, Contra Costa was one of 27 library systems across California awarded five-year grants by the State Library to serve adults in need of reading and writing assistance. Thirty-six years later, Project Second Chance has served over 6,100 adults and continues to provide services to approximately 200 adult learners each year. And in 2020, the need in our community is still significant. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that as many as one in five Contra Costa County residents struggle with the literacy skills needed to complete their daily tasks. 

Tutors are community volunteers who’d like to help a neighbor improve their reading and writing skills. No teaching experience or degrees are required; good tutors are confident with their own English reading and writing and are empathetic, patient, able to give clear directions, and willing to learn new skills themselves. 

The one-on-one structure of the program is truly what makes Project Second Chance special. Adults enter the program with wide-ranging goals related to literacy, from obtaining their high school equivalency, to becoming a US citizen, registering to vote, reading to a child, getting a promotion at work, or managing a health condition. Lessons are tailored to help adult learners meet their specific goals. Tutors and adult learners learn and grow together as they navigate this process, often developing meaningful relationships along the way. 

Tutor-learner pairs traditionally meet in a library or other public location; however, during the COVID pandemic, tutoring is occurring remotely using technologies like Zoom and the telephone. Project Second Chance is currently seeking volunteer tutors to work virtually with adult learners during the COVID pandemic. Training will be provided and is required for all new tutors. For more information, prospective volunteers can attend an online orientation session via Zoom. To register for an orientation, please visit or call (925) 691-3960. 

By Vicky DeYoung, Resident Since 2013