Monthly Archives: February 2016

Literacy KC Assistance Program

By Emily Hane, Programs Manager

One of the most difficult literacy skills to master is perseverance. The ability to come to class consistently, complete daily homework, and turn page after page is critical to improving literacy. Too often, the most dedicated adult learner has his or her studies interrupted, not due to lack of motivation or persistence, but because life gets in the way.

When student budgets are tight, a flat tire can mean two weeks of missed classes.

Volunteers in Action

Instead of sitting back and lamenting the challenges faced by our adult learners, Literacy Kansas City volunteers sprang into action. Less than a year ago, the inaugural meeting of the Student Needs Committee created a vision for helping all Literacy KC students reach their academic goals, regardless of the barriers they face.

The committee began by researching what services are already offered in the Kansas City community and forged partnerships with other agencies that offer emergency assistance or can provide basic needs such as work clothing, help purchasing prescription medication, or food.

Despite the plethora of resources in Kansas City, the Student Needs Committee agreed that there are still major gaps. Our students deserve access to assistance that can alleviate the simplest barriers, like bus passes and personal care items, and thus the Literacy KC Assistance Program was born.

Literacy KC Assistance Program (LAP)

The Literacy KC Assistance Program is a fund that provides direct assistance to our students to alleviate barriers or enhance learning opportunities. Upon tutor or instructor recommendation, students complete a brief application detailing their current financial need and what is required to ensure consistent class attendance.  Applications are reviewed by committee members in a timely manner, so that students have as little disruption to their learning as possible.

Once a request is approved, Literacy KC staff secures the granted item or makes the necessary financial transactions. Students are eligible to receive up to $50 of support to eliminate barriers to class attendance or increase access to learning tools, like purchasing a home computer.

Students Persevere

So far, the LAP has made three grants to students in need. For example, one enterprising student who was able to get rides to class but unable to get home, was granted 24 single-ride bus passes to ensure that he can make it home after hours of studying. This small, direct student assistance ensures that our learners are able to continue to preserver, despite the obstacles that life throws their way.

This volunteer committee and fund exemplifies what we do best: bring people together to support our students.

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Filed under Announcement, Community Partners, For Students, For Volunteers

New Represent Program Launches 15 Student-Interns Toward Success

“The past is important because it makes me learn.” “The future is about trying to be successful.” “The present is here and I’m going to live it!”

These were thoughts voiced by three of the 15 dynamic, ambitious student-interns in the first cohort of Literacy KC’s new Represent program. The innovative curriculum, which began February 8, was designed by Instructor Phil Denver, Program Development Coordinator Anne Gatschet, and Volunteer Coordinator Kate Brown, to build academic reading and writing skills, career readiness, and confidence in students, ages 16-24.  Represent meets every Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Classes are assisted by five volunteer tutor/coaches, formerly with GEARS and/or Ticket to Read.

“Who would play you in a movie about your life?”

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Represent student-intern groups are joined by five volunteer tutor/coaches.

“Ice-breaker” questions like this were posed for team discussion in the first days of class.  Student-Intern Karahn English responded quickly to this one — Will Smith! Indeed, the outgoing, smart actor is a fitting role model for 16 year old Karahn, one of the first students to enroll in Represent. Karahn was recruited by his enthusiastic cousin Khalif Jones, whose brother Nicodemas Jones has also joined. All attended the Urban Community Leadership Academy, a Kansas City charter middle school forced to close in 2012 due to financial difficulties. The three young men attended a couple of different high schools but adjusting proved challenging.

All three are eager to move forward with their education and work goals. Karahn, whom Phil named “benevolent” in a reading context exercise, is interested in cars and cooking. Nicodemas, whom Phil called “buoyant”, has been interested in technology and construction since a fourth grade metalworking and electrical class. He also loves growing flowers. “Resolute” Khalif is headed for the law profession.

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Represent Instructor Phil Denver is a walking display of creative ideas from the student-interns about how to improve the classroom atmosphere.

All students will be matched with mentors compatible with their career interests. Literacy KC is recruiting mentors now. They will be introduced to the class the week of March 7 and will begin meeting with students once a week for the remainder of the workshop. The mentorship continues with bi-monthly career guidance meetings for a year. Represent will hold dinners through January 2017 for students and mentors to network and socialize. Civic leaders and professionals from diverse backgrounds will make guest appearances in Represent workshops, and give students opportunities for dialogue. Outings to professional and cultural sites are planned around the city.

Part of the Represent workshop is an internship. Students are given assignments that will assist the staff of Literacy KC and other area service agencies. To this end, each cohort of Represent serves on a Young Adults Council, bringing the cultural knowledge of their age group to the planning table to help answer questions about marketing, programming, and recruitment of Kansas City young adults. Student-interns will be paid a stipend of $500 upon completion of the workshop. This offers students the opportunity to earn a letter of recommendation and practice communication skills on the job.

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From left: Represent Student-Interns: Khalif Jones, Nicodemas Jones and Karahn English.

While civic awareness and workforce readiness are the basic themes of Represent, the core practice is literacy. All student-interns must complete 22 hours of Reading Plus outside of class before the 12 week workshop ends on April 27. Students also will write and complete a personal dossier, including a life philosophy statement, resume, cover letter, personality profile, and various writing assignments. The final weeks of the course focus on the financial literacy.

Represent partners with another local workforce readiness program, Culinary Cornerstones, to bring students fresh, healthful breakfast and hot lunch on each class day.  Culinary Cornerstones is a training program in cooking skills developed by Episcopal Community Services. In signature synergistic and community-oriented style, Literacy KC and this innovative culinary program have coordinated an impressive partnership. Huge thanks to Culinary Cornerstones for donating and delivering all meals to Represent.

A second Represent workshop for cohort 2 will begin in June at the same time as Term 2 of Ticket to Read begins.

“If other animals could talk to us, what would they say?”

Nicodemas knew what a bird would say: “I’m ready to fly!”

 

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Filed under Announcement, Community Partners, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Represent, Understanding the Need

Literacy Links to Civic Participation

It seems that at least 23 of the 24-hour-news-cycle hours are currently dedicated to political races, disgraces, and other early signs of an election year.  So, you may ask: “What does all this noise have to do with our national problem of illiteracy?”

Quite a lot.

Voting is an important right that all citizens 18 and older are granted. While citizens should always exercise their right to vote, no matter what level of government the election is for, this is an especially important year because of the presidential election. Presidential caucuses for Kansas Republicans and Democrats are on March 5. Missouri presidential preference primaries for all parties are on March 15. There are many differences in the rules for each event, but all have one thing in common. You may not participate unless you are a currently registered voter.  Thanks to our 21st-century technological advances, you can go online to register to vote, or to access a paper copy to mail to your election authority. If you haven’t filled out your voter registration form yet, or even if you already have, take a look at the websites and read through the forms:

www.dss.mo.gov or  www.kssos.org or www.sos.mo.gov

One thing you’ll notice is that they are wordy. And they are worded in ways that can be hard to decipher. For individuals who are low literate, forms like these are a real challenge. If you know your history, you know that literacy tests were used in 20th century America to deliberately disenfranchise and deter particular voters—descendants of slaves, poor people of all colors, immigrants. Assuming there is no longer such intent, today’s voter registration forms have the same unfortunate result for the hundreds of thousands of good citizens who struggle with low literacy. And in our 21st century society, there is the additional barrier of finding and accessing these forms online. A convenience for many of us, but not for individuals who either don’t have digital access, or may not have the knowledge to navigate to the appropriate websites.

sample ballot

Ballots can be complicated, wordy, and intimidating.

At Literacy KC, many of our students are actively involved and deeply connected to their communities. They are caregivers for family and friends, they lead Bible studies at their churches, they are leaders at work. But not all of our students may be registered voters because they lack the digital and literacy skills to fill out the appropriate forms.

Our classes help our students achieve their personal goals, but we also help them grow in confidence and strengthen their literacy skills so they can become active citizens, exercise their right to vote, and have a voice in our democratic process.

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Filed under For Students, For Volunteers, In The News, Power of Reading, Understanding the Need

Enthusiasm Abounds for Term 1 2016: Behind-the-Scenes During Orientation

A full week of Literacy KC program orientation activities drew dozens of students interested in improving their literacy skills and reaching life goals. The result was 156 students signed up for our 2016 Term 1 Ticket to Read classes beginning February 8 and continuing through April 27. A select group of students qualified for our new Represent and Career Online High School programs, both focused on college and career preparation. We can’t wait to see all of these students soar!

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Programs Manager Emily Hane prepares students for registration.

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Student Albert Williams registers for classes.

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Student Jeanine Levy shows her excitement for the new term.

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Instructor Sarah Bell administers a pre-registration test to student Victoria Estes.

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Student Reginald Haynes receives the computer he purchased through Literacy KC’s partnership with Connecting for Good.

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Student Rayonica Hervey registers for class.

Photography by Eric Diebold, Literacy KC Board Member

 

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Filed under Community Partners, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Programs & Services