Tag Archives: americorps

The 30 Year History of Literacy KC

DSC_0006

Literacy KC began as a dream and grew out of a passion to help people.  In 1985, a group of volunteers led by Catherine Matthews perceived a need and created a tiny organization to provide literacy tutoring for adults.  They had become aware of several adults that struggled with literacy skills and felt that there was an answer to help them gain new skills and improve on the limited skills that they had.  With a handful of students, Catherine embarked on a new journey by negotiating the use of a portion of the basement of the Country Club Congregational Church located at 205 West 65th Street, Kansas City, Missouri. She identified several individuals willing to volunteer their time and affiliated with the National Laubach Literacy Council to start a literacy tutoring program for adults.  The affiliation with Laubach provided the organization access to curriculum and materials.  The program was first called Kansas City Laubach Literacy Council.

BENCHMARKS:

1994: 1st Annual Corporate Spelling Bee. The Bee, which remains a significant source of fundraising for Literacy KC, brings teams from corporations in the KC area together to compete in a live spelling bee.  Corporations pay an entry fee and many bring “cheer squads” to compete for the spirit award.  During the Bee, silent and live auctions are held.

1996: For several years prior, the program was operated with an all-volunteer staff. The first Executive Director was hired, as well as a full-time Program Coordinator.

2000: The Literacy Works program was established. In this program, Literacy KC worked directly with corporations to place literacy tutoring skills programs on site at each corporation.  The rationale for the program was that increased literacy skills could increase productivity and reduce turnover for the company.  The strongest partnership was with Truman Hospital.  However, there were two factors that led to the eventual discontinuation of the program: first, many people were reluctant to come to this “volunteer” tutoring program at their place of work because of the stigma associated with an inability to read.  Second, the hospital eventually revised their hiring practices to require a high school diploma and evidence of ability to read, which nearly eliminated the potential student base on site.  The program continued until approximately 2007.

2006: Office relocated to 211 W. Armour Boulevard. It is significant to note that at the time of the move, the organization was paying $1,000 per month in rent to the church and the new monthly expense would be approximately $5,000.  The board approved the move based on information that $50,000 had been raised to support the move.  However, all of the needed financing was not actually available to Literacy KC and the increased expenditure quickly began to prove a challenge. By the end of 2006, the board was called on to make a cash infusion to make payroll.

2008: Near demise. In the summer, Interim Director Cliff Schiappa and Board President Mark Schweizer called a meeting to discuss the current standing of the organization.  In the year prior, board members had pitched in financially in order to keep the doors open and to be able to continue paying staff.  The Bee, although successful in its own right, was not enough to fund the programs and other funding was not coming in as anticipated. As there was no apparent “relief” in sight at that time, the discussion of possibly closing the doors of Literacy KC ensued.  A handful of board members were almost ready to do so, however there was not enough agreement to go ahead with this drastic measure.

Earlier that year, Interim Director Cliff Schiappa had crafted a grant proposal for the Human Foundation.  It was shortly after the above mentioned meeting that it was learned the organization was a finalist for this potential $100,000 grant.  In the end, Literacy KC did not win the overall grant but as one of the three organizations among the finalists, received $10,000.  This money was enough of a “shot in the arm” to keep the board motivated to move forward.

Fall 2008-2011: Staff was realigned to the following: Executive Director, Full-time Program Manager, Open Doors Coordinator, Part-time Tutor Trainer, Part-time Volunteer Coordinator, Operations Manager, Marketing/Communications Specialist [Note: titles may not be exact.]  The first Open Doors grant was developed and the program was funded.

2010: Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley and a trial student tutoring program began on campus with the college providing the space and Literacy KC providing a classroom instructor and volunteer tutors.

Fall 2011: Formal start of the GEARS program at MCC-Penn Valley. Gillian Ford was hired as the GEARS Coordinator.  During that year, the student identification process was honed and the classroom/tutoring process was fine tuned. Finances remained an issue and board members again infused personal money at the end of the year to ensure bills, payrolls and holiday bonuses were paid.  During the strategic planning process, the board discussed the organization’s significant financial needs, the large number of adults needing the organization’s services, and the unwanted tag that our organization was the “best kept secret in Kansas City.”

2012: New Executive Director Carrie Coogan was hired & Gillian Ford Helm became Director of Programs. During the next year and a half (among many other changes), the organization’s accounting was contracted to Support KC, the lease was renegotiated, and employee health insurance bid out. Carrie and Gillian together reorganized every aspect of Literacy KC’s operations. Through research into adult literacy and reading acquisition, coupled with the success of the GEARS classroom-based program and in-depth analysis on the shortcomings of the one-to-one model, it was determined that a program overhaul was necessary in the evolution of Literacy KC programming if the organization wanted to truly increase numbers served, improve student progress, prove effectiveness, and affect change in our community.

A significant multi-year grant was won from the William T. Kemper Foundation that was the vote of confidence needed in order to leverage dollars from other funding sources in support of the program changes. The next two years brought research, a thoughtful education of Literacy KC supporters on the coming changes, internal administrative improvements, and an infusion of energy and community support into the renewed Literacy KC.

2013: Focus began to zero in on data, outcomes, and program effectiveness. A data consolidation project migrated all data into a single database and allowed valid recording and reporting. The beginning of the Literacy KC VISTA program (through CNCS) supported internal stability and capacity building through the addition of full-time cost-effective staff members.

2014: Literacy KC launched The Impact Initiative, a communications and identity effort to do a number of things: First, the continued diversification of student programming; second, to raise awareness about adult literacy and the visibility of Literacy KC; third, to work with community partners to leverage resources and broaden reach; fourth, to continue to build a strong infrastructure; and finally, to work with our constituents toward a paradigm shift away from one-to-one tutoring toward a classroom-based, instructor-led, tutor-supported, and community-based model called Ticket to Read. 2014 also saw the launch of the Let’s Read Family Reading Program and a major investment from United Way in the form of a substantial multi-year grant.

2015: Launch of the Ticket to Read program. It gave tutors and students a peer group, reinforcing the benefits of social and peer-to-peer learning; it provided relevant, dynamic, and appropriate curriculum; students access academically and geographically appropriate classes; and achieved strong outcomes through trackable metrics.

The first Fund Development Manager was hired, and this investment brought exponentially valuable returns. Literacy KC won the UMB Big Bash award, along with our second multi-year William T. Kemper investment. Partnerships included the Kansas City Public Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, Kansas City Parks & Recreation, Kansas City Public Schools, & more. We also became founding members of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition, and launched Career Online High School program, a nationally unique partnership with Mid-Continent Public Library and Kansas City Public Library that offers students the convenience of an online platform to earn a fully accredited high school diploma with an attached career certificate.

To mark the organization’s complete transformation and herald in the new era of Literacy Kansas City, the organization began a re-branding process, which also coincided with the 30th year of incorporation of the original Literacy Kansas City.

Print

On April 28,2016, the new Literacy KC brand was revealed.

2016: At the 2016 Spelling Bee, the new and improved Literacy KC was revealed. The new logo highlights both the different facets of literacy – reading, writing, math, and digital skills – while representing the diverse community that plays a crucial role in building a legacy of literacy in our community and changing lives beyond words. The open doors invite you in as a student or supporter, and the books represent the boundless information and opportunities available through literacy.

To get involved with Literacy KC as we continue to build on our history, visit literacykc.org or call (816)333-9332.

*This is not meant to be an exhaustive, all-inclusive history of the organization, but rather an overview of some of the major events.*
Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under AmeriCorps VISTA, COHS, Community Partners, Corporate Spelling Bee, For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Fundraisers, Programs & Services, Uncategorized

The Need For Kansas City AmeriCorps VISTAs is High!

Did you know that Literacy KC serves as an intermediary for AmeriCorps VISTAs? Along with managing our 3 amazing Literacy KC VISTAs, we also are involved with managing VISTAS at other organizations in Kansas City. The following sites are currently looking for AmeriCorps VISTAs. If you have ever debated becoming a VISTA, now is your chance to get involved and serve! See more information about these opportunities below:

 

ccf

1. Community Capital Fund – The Community Capital Fund (CCF) is a 501(c)(3) community development nonprofit that supports and promotes innovative and measurable community development by focusing on neighborhood capacity building initiatives that leverage community resources and expertise. CCF works with organizations that strengthen and develop the financial, social, and knowledge capital of Kansas City’s historically under-resourced and under-invested communities and neighborhoods. We do this through the Neighborhood Opportunity Grant Program, Neighborhoods Rising Fund, the annual Community Development Workshop, and the online community project mapping tool, CommunityKC.

The Innovation and Outreach Coordinator VISTA  will strengthen and expand existing programs, enable both organizations to measure their success, and take our organizations to new levels.The achievement of the VISTA will build the capacity of CCF and AltCap and in turn, strengthen our work to support building communities that are economically vibrant with strong and empowered neighborhoods.

For More Information or To Apply: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=68487&fromSearch=true

 

connecting 4 good

2. Connecting for Good: Connecting for Good (CFG) represents the digital literacy arm of Kansas City’s Digital Inclusion Coalition—public, private, and non-profit organizations striving to make Kansas City the first city in America to actually close the Digital Divide. CFG’s vision is ‘Building Communities Through Digital Inclusion’. Connecting For Good follows a three pronged strategy of connectivity, hardware, and training—offering low cost internet connection service and discounted refurbished computers along with a variety of free digital literacy training classes to low-income residents, non-profits, and community centers serving urban core neighborhoods characterized as the ‘digital divide’.

The Development Coordinator VISTA will generate funding and increase community visibility for our services focused on closing the digital divide. This position manages donor relation activities, creates marketing and appeals materials, and related internal/external communications. Duties include managing the financial sustainability plan developed in conjunction with the CEO, generating individual and corporate donors and long term gifts, responding to telephone and e-mail inquiries; donor appreciation communication; developing and executing fund raising events, writing grants. Professional development training will be provided for this role.

For More Information or To Apply: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=68489&fromSearch=true

 

kcdd-logo

3. KC Digital Drive: KC Digital Drive’s mission is to make Kansas City a digital leader to improve economic opportunities and quality of life for those who live here. We work toward this mission through three core strategies: bridging the digital divide, driving innovation-led pilot projects with social and civic impact, and working to build Kansas City’s reputation throughout the world by sharing the projects and progress that result from the first two strategies.

The Project Coordinator VISTA will assist with event planning and execution; provide support for project managers, especially in tracking progress, recording metrics, and sharing outwardly project progress; and cultivate cross-channel lines of support for KC Digital Drive’s work, including building volunteer capacity and identifying/pursuing additional funding sources. Particular focus on three KC Digital Drive programs: Code for KC Brigade, KC Coalition for Digital Inclusion, and the Health Innovation Team.

For More Information or To Apply: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=68557&fromSearch=true

 

mattie-rhodes

4. Mattie Rhodes Center: The Mattie Rhodes Center (MRC) and the Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT) have chosen to engage and affect the low income residents of the Indian Mound and Lykins neighborhoods because these neighborhoods are both poised for growth and in need of more direct support.

The Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA will build relationships with neighborhood residents in order to increase engagement with the neighborhood associations with the outcome being increased economic and political power for the neighborhoods. The Community Engagement Coordinator will work with low-income residents, connecting them with services meant to increase financial well-being, economic security, access to affordable housing, financial literacy, and employment. The Community Engagement Coordinator will promote the Urban Homesteading program and other alternative home ownership to increase home ownership in the neighborhoods by low income residents. The Community Engagement Coordinator will identify opportunities for potential programs to be developed in subsequent years.

For More Information or To Apply: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=68488&fromSearch=true

 

jf

5. Jerusalem Farm: We strive to transform our lives and those around us through service retreat experiences, sustainable living and home repair. Our mission is to make ourselves available to the needs of our community. The main way that we do this is through addressing home repair needs and coordinating volunteers from Kansas City and around the country.

The CNAB Coordinator VISTA will be creating the CNAB program from the ground up. This person will be community organizing, educating neighbors, recruiting and engaging CNAB members and volunteers, as well as creating systems for the program to run on well into the future. The CNAB Coordinator will also work with Jerusalem Farm’s Executive Director to develop a fundraising strategy, research and identify funding sources, and write grants/funding applications for this program.

For More Information or To Apply: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=68558&fromSearch=true

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact any one of these organizations for more information. You may also contact Literacy KC’s Rachel Henderson at rhenderson@literacykc.org or call our office at (816) 333-9332.

Leave a comment

Filed under AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Partners, For Volunteers, In-Service Workshops, Uncategorized

VISTA Check-In: Will Orlowski

download

As the final term of my VISTA service becomes ever more imminent, I find myself tasked with reflecting on my experiences thus far. So much has occurred in my time at Literacy KC, however, that a comprehensive summary would require more space and detail than I think is reasonable. How could I quantify all of the things that I’ve learned, or adequately describe the overwhelming positivity of our students? Instead I will try to describe the nature of that service, and attempt to provide a VISTA perspective on the progress and direction of Literacy KC.

VISTA stands for “Volunteers in Service to America.” We are trained and deployed by AmeriCorps to provide support and long-term growth in the form of capacity building, while simultaneously experiencing American life from a perspective of poverty and hard work. Volunteering is a major aspect of a VISTA’s year of service; not only have I been shown the nature of our students’ day-to-day, but that of our many volunteers as well. I have seen the impact they have on the organization from every level, whether it is by witnessing our phenomenal tutors in action or working with the volunteers that helped make our Spelling Bee possible. I have also seen the significance they draw from their time with the students, the invaluable relationships they have made with so many incredible men and women. This capacity for connection, the celebration by our students and tutors of their differences as well as their similarities, is the most significant lesson I have learned in my time at Literacy KC.

The most important aspect of a VISTA’s service, however, is capacity building. Where other branches of AmeriCorps may focus on disaster relief or more immediate forms of direct service, our goal is to help develop existing programs and/or implement new ones. Ideally, each VISTA will leave the organization better than they found it, with the ability to point to specific examples where they contributed something concrete and efficient. All VISTAs are stationed at non-profits that do important work within their communities, and it is this combination of locally focused organizations and nationally stationed capacity builders that helps to grow and support thousands of people around the country.

 

Will Orlowski, Shirley Lewis, Literacy for All Luncheon

VISTA Will Orlowski & Student Shirley Lewis at the 2015 Literacy for All Luncheon.

During my term with Literacy KC I have seen first-hand the impact adult literacy education has on a community. I’ve met dozens of people who have brought their own intelligence and work ethic to our classes and permanently improved their lives (and many of the lives of those around them). Literacy KC’s ability to do this has changed quite a bit over the last few years; the most major difference has been the switch from one-to-one tutoring to our current classroom model, but even since then our growth has been rapid. I personally have had the opportunity to oversee and take part in many different projects. New tests have been selected to more accurately measure our students’ advancement, and we have had to adjust and re-adjust our enrollment process to incorporate these changes. The way in which we track students’ achievement of their goals has become a more concrete and reliable process with the implementation of new data collection and analysis strategies. The Student Needs Committee was created to help our tutors provide even more assistance to their students by granting those who need it with basic necessities like bus passes and eye glasses. The students have also taken a larger role in the decision making process of the organization; the student advisory council, or “Together We Stand,” gave students a chance to nominate their own representatives, speak publicly regarding their needs as students, and even to organize and run their own end-of-term celebration. These are a small sample of the many things I can proudly say I have been a part of here at Literacy KC.

Ultimately, being a VISTA is about learning. This experience has afforded me the opportunity to learn what it takes to succeed in a professional environment, as well as the many challenges that come with living on a small government stipend designed to closely reflect the average income of our student population. It has been a difficult year, with many adversities and some failures. It has, however, provided me with access to some truly incredible people; students who lead lives that constantly inspire, and volunteers who regularly model dedication and compassion. There is still this last term to go, and I know it will be as hectic and surprising as the first two. But I also know, at the end of it, I will be proud.

Leave a comment

Filed under AmeriCorps VISTA, Programs & Services, Uncategorized