At our regular meeting on Wednesday, October 4th, Sisters Lenore Toscano and Mary Nolan  described The Opening Word literacy and job readiness program that provides women with a key to future personal empowerment, increased civic and social responsibility and enhanced skills for membership in the workforce. 
Sr. Lenore Toscano, Executive Director of the Opening Word, described the origin and function of the organization.
Begun by Dominican Sisters in 1991,The Opening Word Programs teach over 300 female students annually in underprivileged and immigrant communities across three Long Island sites. 
They do not charge for their services; the bulk of their funding comes from a NYS grant, corporate and individual donations.
Sr. Lenore described the backgrounds and motivations of the majority of their students, stressing their eagerness to learn, admirable work ethic, frustrations and successes.
Sr. Mary, a long time volunteer teacher with the program, spoke of the teaching environment and the learning testing techniques used to assure that students truly comprehend and can apply their newly acquired skills. She cited several anecdotes of student’s proud recognition and application of their new abilities.
There are many success stories among the over 6000 women who have been helped by this program. Several have opened their own business, others have acquired college degrees and attained responsible positions in industry and academia.
An important initiative of The Opening Word program is establishment of a Citizenship Application Fund that helps immigrant women pay the $725 US citizenship application fee. This is an area where they are hoping organizations like Rotary might support. They also seek support through the purchase of citizenship teaching books and part-time teaching volunteers.
Sisters Lenore and Mary concluded their talk by answering a flurry of questions during a lively Q&A session. They are pictured above with Babylon Rotary President Frank Seibert.