A Huntington teen has been striving to eradicate local illiteracy by recruiting one student to join the cause from every high school in Suffolk County.
Maria Samaritano, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School, serves as a junior ambassador for Literacy Suffolk, a nonprofit that aims to improve adult literacy through trained volunteers.
In the role, Samaritano helps spread awareness about Long Island’s literacy problem and recruit adult tutors, who must have a high school diploma and attend a 12-hour training workshop. Samaritano, who said she was the nonprofit’s sole junior ambassador prior to her efforts, has recruited five other teens countywide to join her so far.
“It wasn’t until high school when I started to get more interested,” said Samaritano, 17, whose mother has been a Literacy Suffolk volunteer for over a decade. “It made me wonder about people’s lives and, if they can’t read for themselves, how could they do things like help their kids with homework?”
Ambassador efforts include giving presentations at local senior centers and churches to recruit volunteers to assist some 700 people on the nonprofit’s waitlist for tutors. Statistically, one in seven Suffolk adults is unable to read beyond a sixth-grade level, Samaritano said.
Samaritano is an executive board member for St. Anthony’s Leadership Team and a member of her school’s English, Math and National honor societies. She also volunteers weekly for Long Island Cares.