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Living the Dominican Charism at Aquinas Literacy Center
The exterior of the Aquinas Literacy Center with a giant A

By Alison Altmeyer
Executive Director, Aquinas Literacy Center

February 23, 2024, Chicago – On a recent visit, a newly hired Literacy Grant Consultant from the Illinois Secretary of State Office, which provides significant funding to Aquinas Literacy Center, asked, “Why do your learners and volunteers return week after week?” 

He looked at me curiously while I explained The Aquinas Way. I spoke about our spirit of hospitality, welcoming, and inclusivity; the investment in comprehensive initial orientation and ongoing professional development for volunteer literacy tutors; the value in accepting our learners as individuals; and the importance of offering quality, individualized instruction to our English-language learners. 

A large woman with shoulder-length curly blond hair wearing a red lace blouse and a black blazerThe Aquinas Way is the Dominican Way. We seek to understand and courageously help those who walk through our doors.

Our visitor shared that two other successful programs in the Chicagoland area are sponsored by the Springfield Dominican Sisters. All three of our programs have one thing in common: the Dominican Charism.

For more than 25 years, the Dominican Spirit has been alive at Aquinas Literacy Center. From humble beginnings in a convent basement with two tables and five chairs to implementing the McKinley Park Resilient Community Initiative, Aquinas Literacy Center has responded to the immigrant community's needs on the southwest side of Chicago. Aquinas always puts the student first in decision-making, goals, and impact in the neighborhood. 

As Chicago faces a humanitarian crisis with vulnerable people on the move, Aquinas Literacy Center is poised to open its doors to teach English to those desperate for a better life in the United States. The Dominican Charism guides our long-term planning for a more resilient immigrant community in McKinley Park. 

As Executive Director of Aquinas Literacy Center, the Dominican Charism is instilled in me in my commitment to offer a safe learning environment for our learners, to support volunteer literacy tutors, to lead our Administrative Team, to engage with community partners, and to collaborate with our Board of Directors. 

The Dominican Charism can be seen on the faces of our learners as we celebrate their completing their first class, advancing a book level, earning a promotion, becoming U.S. citizens, and graduating from Aquinas Literacy Center. It’s the intangible gift, the joy, of our learners who experience the care, compassion, and respect on their journey to improve their English-language literacy and achieve their personal goals. We are humbled and honored to know and to help each learner who entrusts us with their education.  

In literacy, we live the Dominican Charism. 

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of The Dominican Table, the quarterly newsletter of the Office of Dominican Charism. Visit our Publications page to see past issues of the newsletter and to subscribe.


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Avatar  Nancy Murray OP 3 weeks agoReply

What an excellent response to that new grant writer! We are so proud if the work done at the Aquinas Literacy Center, and all the teachers, tutors and students who make it so vibrant. Alison, thank you for your example of living out the Dominican Charism!


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