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What is International Literacy Day?

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and Literacy KC is so excited to celebrate this day with the rest of the world. International Literacy Day 2016 celebrates and honors the past five decades of national and international engagement, efforts and progress made to increase literacy rates around the world. It also addresses current challenges and looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.

In 1966, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8th International Literacy Day to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.

Now International Literacy Day is celebrated worldwide, bringing together governments, multi- and bilateral organizations, NGOs, private sectors, communities, teachers, learners and experts in the field. This year the focus is on innovation.

According to UNESCO, over 757 million adults worldwide still lack basic reading and writing skills. Of the 757 million low-literate adults, over two thirds of them are women. While literacy rates have steadily increased over the past 50 years, these statistics help to show that there is still work to be done. Below are two graphs that compare youth literacy statistics from 1985 and 2015, showing a visible increase in literacy rates throughout the 20 year span.

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“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all”  

-UNESCO Director General

While Literacy KC focuses its resources on the Kansas City community, where there are an estimated 225,000 low-literate adults, adults all over the country and the world continue require assistance to improve their literacy skills. Literacy KC is proud to be a welcoming and safe community resource for Kansas City area adults to improve their reading, writing, math and digital skills. We are excited to continue to deliver an innovative, research-based classroom model of instruction as we strive to create a future where there is literacy for all.

From all of us at Literacy KC, we wish you a Happy International Literacy Day!

Are you looking for a way to help celebrate National Literacy Month with Literacy KC? Here are some ways that you can make a difference with us:

  • Get tickets for our annual Literacy For All Luncheon on Friday, September 16th! This event will give you the chance to hear from our guest speakers Jeffri Chadiha, a senior columnist for NFL.com and the NFL Network, and Tom Bloch, former H&R Block CEO and Co-Founder of University Academy. This fundraiser that helps to support Literacy KC and is a great way to connect with other literacy advocates in the community!
  • Become a volunteer with us! Email kbrown@literacykc.org or call (816) 333-9332 for more information.
  • Make a financial commitment to support Literacy KC  as we continue to be an accessible resource for adults that require literacy assistance in the Kansas City Community.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, In The News, Uncategorized

The 30 Year History of Literacy KC

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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.

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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.*

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

A New Brand To Mark A New Era

A little over three years ago, the Literacy Kansas City staff and board underwent a comprehensive strategic planning process that resulted in two major goals: first, to become a more efficient and effective provider of adult literacy services; and second, to leverage community connections to better meet the need. In many ways, our immense progress toward the realization of these goals has resulted in a reinvention, and a more than doubling of size, of our organization. From our classroom-based program service delivery model and community partner collaborative focus, to a dedication to research- and evidence-based programs, and a diversification of services that offers comprehensive, student-centered approaches and outcomes, Literacy Kansas City has certainly come a long way.

Thirty years ago, Literacy Kansas City began as a dream and grew out of a passion to help people. A small group of volunteers perceived a need and created a tiny organization to provide literacy tutoring for adults. Operating from the basement of the Country Club Congregational Church at 64th and Brookside Boulevard, the program was operated with an all-volunteer staff until, a decade later, its first Executive Director was hired. Since then, Literacy Kansas City has remained dedicated to its mission of advancing literacy in our community through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration, and will forever owe a debt of gratitude to its founding members.

As we look ahead to the future of Literacy KC, we have again undergone a strategic planning process.  After many hours of organizational soul-searching, we have determined a common purpose and visionary goal: to become a premiere literacy service provider throughout our region, a model for adult literacy programs, and a leader in adult literacy education. And we are already well on our way.

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Executive Director Gillian Helm working hard with the Spelling Bee on preparing Literacy Kansas City’s new brand!

To commemorate the innovations in 21st century adult literacy curriculum; to acknowledge the progress toward creating a welcoming community for students, staff, and supporters; to acknowledge that literacy goes far beyond words; and to herald in a new era for Literacy KC, we will be launching a new brand at this year’s Spelling Bee. Our refreshed look and logo will help us to better convey the excitement, relevance, opportunity, and potential that we already know we have, and that a new brand will more fully showcase. Please join us on Thursday, April 28, at UMKC’s Pierson Auditorium to commemorate our 30th year of service to our community, to pay tribute to those who came before us, to celebrate the achievements yet to come, and to be one of the first to see the new and improved identity of Literacy Kansas City.

On Friday, April 29, our new signs to the brilliant future of adult literacy will be shown in full color here!

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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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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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Practical Steps Toward Achieving a Dream

A year ago, Tierra Lewis was enrolled in a GED class at an area community college, but feeling far from her dream of starting her own childcare business.

“It just didn’t work for me,” says the mother of a daughter, age 11, and son, 6.

Just by chance, Tierra passed by the Literacy KC offices on Armour Blvd. in mid-town Kansas City and stopped in. Later, she did a Google search for more information about what the nonprofit had to offer her.Tierra Lewis

“Cool beans, I’m for it!” she remembers saying, after reading about Ticket to Read and Family Reading Program classes. Tierra began right away by taking the Digital Life Skills prerequisite in Literacy KC’s computer lab before entering literacy classes.

She was also part of a student group who, with their children, attended Mayor Sly James’ summer reading event at the Sprint Center.

Today, Tierra is a pilot student in a new program called Career Online High School (COHS), a partnership between Literacy KC and both Kansas City and Mid-Continent Public Libraries, along with Gale Cengage Learning of Michigan, a leading educational content company. The flexible online education curriculum is designed to help qualified students earn an accredited high school diploma while gaining real-world career training.

COHS scholarships for 25 students will be awarded this year.  In addition to a high school degree, accredited by AdvancedED/SACS, recipients can work toward earning a career certificate in one of eight fields, designated as high-growth and high-demand. These areas include: Child Care & Education, Certified Protection Officer, Homeland Security, Food and Customer Service Skills, Office Management and more.  Academic coaches will be paired with each student. Biweekly online seminars focusing on 21st century skills and monthly career webinars for job market preparation will help students even further.

Tierra’s first online class is Child Development, toward her certificate in Child Care & Education.  “I’m learning about what’s behind interacting with children and how to actually be a business woman, from marketing to legal issues, for my own business,” she says.

Tierra’s next step will be to take the required courses she needs to obtain a diploma.

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Tierra Lewis at the Career Online High School Launch Reception, 1/22/16

Her goal is to complete the program in nine months, about half the average estimated time. The goal appears to be an achievable one.  Tierra is studying every weekday at Literacy KC from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., getting help from instructors, tutors and staff, as needed. In the evenings and weekends she volunteers as Boy Scout den leader for her son’s troop and for the childcare nursery at her church.

“I want to first run my own business in toddler education and daycare,” she says about her future. “Then I’ll go on to be a social worker and help others.”

http://www.careeronlinehs.gale.com/kc/career-certificates/

http://www.careeronlinehs.gale.com/kc/

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Filed under Announcement, COHS, Community Partners, For Students, In The News, Programs & Services, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized, Understanding the Need

Blog to Roll Out September 8th, 2015

Check back on September 8th as we roll out our new organizational blog, Between the Lines.  We know you’re going to love it!

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