Tag Archives: the power of reading

Student Spotlight: Twyla

Twyla Coin

Twyla is a student in the Ticket To Read program at Literacy KC.

We sat down with Literacy KC student Twyla for a look into what drew her to our organization. Here is what she had to say:

“I came to Literacy KC because I used to get frustrated when I would try to read. One day I finally gave up and decided to come improve my reading skills. I knew a 78 year old that didn’t know how to read and I didn’t want to end up like him. I also like getting out of the house and coming to class. I enjoy my class because I like the classroom and my instructor. I also enjoy meeting new friends in my class and all of the tutors. My favorite part of the program has been reading! I have seven bookcases at home full of books and movies that I have not been able to read for the most part. I just wanted to be able to read one of the thick books in my bookcases that I could not read before. I’m getting there. I’m halfway through reading one now!

The greatest challenge for me with the program has been recognizing different words that mean the same thing. It has been hard for me to use these words with the same meaning. I stick with the program because it has helped me a lot and my whole family tells me how proud they are of me keeping up with this. I am constantly telling somebody about the class and they are proud.

Some of the goals that I have accomplished since I have been in class are reading with my granddaughter, filling out job applications, reading my mail, filling out government forms, and reading the newspaper. I also have been able to read articles and books about Judy Garland and John Wayne, which is really fun. I used to have to ask my neighbor for help when I couldn’t read something. It’s always fun to learn. If I meet someone who can’t read or spell, I tell them to come here whether they want to learn to read, write, spell, improve math, or study for their high school diploma.”

Do you want to help students like Twyla improve their reading, writing, math, & digital skills to achieve their goals? Visit literacykc.org for more information or call (816)333-9332. To volunteer with Literacy KC, please email kbrown@literacykc.org.

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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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Let’s Read Program Summer Progress

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Have you ever attended a class at any of our Let’s Read sites? During this summer term, we had classes at Operation Breakthrough, Catholic Charities of St. Joseph, and two sites by Samuel Rodgers Health Centers, Chouteau Courts & Riverview Gardens. Thanks to our partner sites & instructors, many families in the Kansas City area have been able to come together and bond with dedicated time for family reading.

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As shown above, the Let’s Read: Family Reading Program has been working very hard to improve family reading in Kansas City. At the conclusion of each class, the family leaves with a series of new reading tips, books to take home, and smiles on their faces!

As Carl Sagan says; “One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.”

Want to get involved with Literacy KC’s Let’s Read: Family Reading Program? Contact Emily at (816) 333-9332 or by email at ehane@literacykc.org!

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8 Ways To Get Children Interested In Reading

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1.Begin reading to your child from Day 1! Even if they are unable to comprehend the story, your child will appreciate the comforting voice of a parent as you read to them.

 

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2.Show your child your personal interest in reading! As a parent and a role model, your enthusiasm with reading is contagious. If reading is presented in a positive way, they will likely gravitate to it.

 

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3.Make reading a family bonding activity! Set time aside to sit down with your child and connect with a book together.

 

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4.Help them to stay engaged: If your child reads a book and develops a real connection to it, consider getting them to read other books in that genre or by that author!

 

 

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5.Identify instances where reading is necessary in everyday life: show your child how the text relates to them. For example, being able to read a receipt from the grocery store.

 

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6.Create a vocabulary list: This can be done by asking your child to write out words he or she does not quite know the definition of on a separate piece of paper. Then, you can look up the words one by one together.

 

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7.Incorporate technology! You can use computers, tablets, or even smart phones to show your child a short story or poem. This will give them a way to read other than by strictly using print materials.

 

 


8.Go to your local library: the library can be a great resource for finding new books that will keep your child excited about reading. In the Kansas City area, the Mid-Continent Public Library & Kansas City Public Library systems are great resources.

 

 

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Literacy KC’s Let’s Read: Family Reading Program empowers parents and caregivers to take an active role in the education of their children, while improving their own literacy skills. Literacy tends to be inter-generational, so this multi-generational approach helps to break that cycle.

Caregivers and children attend one-hour sessions at convenient community locations throughout Kansas City. Each lesson centers on a theme like Play, Laugh, or Sing, and at the end of the hour, each family leaves with a new reading strategy, a new book, and an increased appreciation for reading together.

To tutor, become a student, or for further information, contact:

Lindsey Clark
Family Reading Program Coordinator
816-333-9332 x. 112
lclark@literacykc.org

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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.

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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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Students Making Change through Their Published Works

 

By Sarah Bell, Literacy KC Instructor

At Literacy KC, I have the pleasure of working directly with our incredible and intelligent students, and I have the fun task of planning interesting and relevant lessons, which often lead to thought-provoking discussions.

One of the units I designed for our past term was on “Race and Identity” and was inspired by a Call for Articles I received from an adult education magazine called The Change Agent. In the publication’s call, adult learners were invited to share their thoughts and experiences for the upcoming issue on racial issues. This topic caught my eye and led to my own unit on Race and Identity, where I gave students the option to submit an essay to The Change Agent. Of my almost 40 students, 15 submitted articles. Some shared personal experiences, some spent hours researching their topic, but all worked hard on their piece. I was proud of all of them, especially since this article was an optional activity.

My pride increased even further, however, when I discovered that THREE of my students’ pieces had been accepted to the magazine! The editor of The Change Agent expressed her delight with the articles, stating that each student provided a unique and valuable perspective to the magazine. Each student will get her piece published in the upcoming March issue of The Change Agent and a $50 stipend. The published students were also recognized at our recent event, “Books, Brains & Boulevard,” attended by about 150 guests.

Below are the three students’ pieces, soon to be published in The Change Agent.

 

Bullying the White KidsGlenda Archibald

Glenda Archibald

When I was ten years old, there was one white family that lived on our block. Then another white family also moved on the block. That was the first time I had a white friend, and we became close.

At the age of thirteen I went to Manual High School. There were only two white kids in the whole school. One of them was in my classroom. I didn’t like the way that the black kids treated him. They threw paper balls at him, hit him, and teased him. I didn’t know why they would do that to him, because he was a nice kid. After school, they would chase him through Gilham Park, calling him names like, “honky,” “white boy,” and “white pig.”

Their bullying used to make me mad and I would tell my mother about it because I didn’t understand why they acted this way. She would always tell me never to be in a category with people like that, because we are not racists, and she did not raise us to be racists, and that we are supposed to love everybody. I would stand next to the white boy after school and I fought for him, standing up to the bullies, both the boys and the girls. I told them to leave him alone because he hadn’t done anything to them and wanted to go to school just like the rest of us. The bullies were scared of me because I had brothers and cousins who would back me up.

When I look back on this, I think they acted this way because they were ignorant about the color he was and didn’t think white kids were good enough to go to that school. But as I got older I thought about that time, and I realized that they had just as much of a right to go to that school as we did. They wanted education, and we wanted education. Why couldn’t we all just get along?

Glenda Archibald grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She attends school at Literacy Kansas City and Manual Tech and is working on getting her GED. She has four children, thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


What I Celebrate About My RaceKarrie Gibson

Karrie Lynn

When people first look at me, they see a white female, but I am much more than that. My great-grandpa was born in Ireland. He moved over to the states when he was older. My great-grandpa left his children in an orphanage. This included my grandpa. My grandpa’s sister was adopted, and my grandpa went to live with his sister’s new family. My grandpa changed his last name from Beggs to Gibson which was his sister’s adopted name.

On my mother’s side, my great-grandpa was half American Indian. He was Cherokee. Both my great-grandpa and grandpa look like American Indians. I didn’t know them very well, but my great-grandpa married my great-grandma, who was white, and they moved to a small town in Missouri.

I consider my family “country folks” because I grew up in a small, rural Missouri town. My nearest neighbor was a mile away, it was pretty secluded. But, what I celebrate about my race is all the cultures that are in my family. Now I live in a city, and I appreciate seeing so many different cultures and the way that other people live. I believe I have that appreciation for different cultures because of my family’s multicultural heritage.

But most of all I celebrate being an individual and not being defined by my race. I celebrate my kindness for everyone I meet no matter their race. I celebrate my personality and how different and unique I am. I celebrate my culture and history and my individuality.

Karrie Lynn is a student at Literacy Kansas City. She plans to attend college and get her nursing degree.

 

My Experiences Growing Up with RacismShirley Lewis

Shirley Lewis

Whites Only

In the 1960s, I visited my grandmother and cousins in Arkansas. One Saturday morning some of us decided to go downtown to see a movie. I felt like the big-shot girl from the city having fun with my cousins from the country, and I was so excited as we entered the theater. After getting our tickets, I automatically ran down to the front to get our seats. My cousins didn’t come with me, so I stood up and looked for them. To my surprise, the usher approached me. He was a large man, wearing a uniform, and he said, “You cannot sit here.” I was stunned, and I said “Why?” Then I saw my cousins beckoning me to come back, but I refused. I had not experienced this kind of thing in my hometown of Kansas City, so I said, “I’m from Kansas City.” The usher’s face turned very red. The look on his face scared me, so I decided to join my cousins. With tears in my eyes, I went with them to the balcony, which was the only place blacks were allowed to sit. I was eight years old when this happened, and I have never forgotten that awful experience.

Light vs. Dark in My Own Family

To my great surprise, I was exposed to racism in my own family. Back then, if your skin was darker and your hair was shorter, you tended to be thought of as less worthy than your counterparts. Girls who had fairer complexions and long hair were treated better, even within their own families. For example, since I was the darker skinned girl, I was usually the one who was asked to wash dishes or clean up, while the other girls just had to look pretty. Due to this treatment, I spent many years feeling that I didn’t deserve better. I did some very extreme things to feel pretty and accepted, such as bringing gifts every time I visited a friend because I didn’t feel like I was good enough on my own. I would also ask my friends’ parents if they needed help cleaning up. I felt like I needed to perform some act of service to be considered a worthwhile individual and to be accepted by others. As I grew older, I gained more confidence, and now I am very proud of my personal appearance. In my 20s, while I was married, a friend invited me to a fashion show and I was overwhelmed with the models who were all shapes, sizes, and colors. Soon after, I started attending a modeling school because I thought if all of these girls can model, so could I. My husband did not approve of me joining the school, but he became very proud of me and my accomplishments. This experience helped change my attitude about myself and I gained more confidence in myself and my appearance.

Racial Tension at School

I went to an all-black school until eighth grade, and then I switched to a predominately white school. I was the only black eighth grader. The white students were not nice to me, due to the fact that they were not used to going to school with black students.  As a result, I became something of a trouble-maker. I tended not to listen in class, talked back to the teacher, and cracked a lot of jokes.

I was helped by a great teacher, Mrs. James. She was a stern gym teacher, and most of the black students, including me, didn’t like her. We disliked her so much, a group of us verbally attacked her one day after school. In my heart, I knew this was wrong, so all of a sudden, I jumped in front of the other kids and said, “This is wrong! We can’t do this!” She showed no fear, and everyone backed down. This made me unpopular with the other kids, but Mrs. James became an advocate for me. She told the other teachers I was a good person and they should give me a chance, in spite of my rude behavior. I became a better, more productive, and nicer student after that. I graduated and was voted best athlete in my senior year. It made a big difference to have an ally. I’m the kind of person who needs people to believe in her, and Mrs. James showed me how to believe in myself.

Shirley Lewis is a 65-year old Kansas City native, who recently decided to focus on herself after years of working and raising two successful children. She started taking classes at Literacy KC in May 2015. She is also a caretaker for her sister, an involved church member, and an active participant in community organizations.

 

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Literacy KC Student Story: Kim Kline

by Will Orlowski, Americorps VISTA, Ticket to Read Program Coordinator

“I want to complete everything you have to offer!” – Kim Kline

When I asked Kim Kline to sit down with me after her class on Monday, the first thing she wanted to know was what she had done wrong. I smiled and told her, “Nothing!” and that, in fact, she had done a lot right and I wanted to interview her for this blog post. She seemed surprised and a little bashful, telling me that she did not think anyone would want to read about her. Nevertheless, she was happy to answer my questions.

This is a perfect example of why Kim is an exemplary student. Kim is modest and polite, incredibly friendly and always willing to stick around and speak with me or the instructors if needed. She works hard and comes to class every week prepared and eager to learn more.

Kim with Limo

Kim (center) and other students pose on the red carpet before boarding the limo that would take them to the Literacy for All Luncheon. “The luncheon and the limo ride,” Kim says, “was one of the best days of my life.”

“I was tired of not being able to read,” Kim said to me when I asked what brought her to Literacy Kansas City. Retired now, Kim was born and raised in Topeka before moving to Kansas City to support her daughters and help raise her grandchildren. In fact, prior to retiring Kim worked in the daycare her grandchildren went to, caring for them and other Kansas City children. It was her family, Kim says, that helped her take the first step with her literacy.

“It was something I’d been wanting to do for years,” Kim told me. She had not had the courage to try until her daughters encouraged her, and when they referred her to Literacy KC she knew it was time to start.

“Before I started the program I was beginning to have a positive attitude, but since I started I’ve felt wonderful… For the first time in my life I believe that I can accomplish this.” Kim made sure to praise her teacher, Sarah Bell, particularly.

“Miss Sarah is a special person,” Kim said with a grin. “Miss Dorothy (Elliot) and Miss Brenda (Moore) are wonderful too, but all of them are great,” she also mentions, referring to the tutors that work with her class, which meets every Monday and Wednesday for an hour and a half. Currently, her class is reading about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on Monday they read his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. The students all were asked to write about their own dreams, and Kim was quick to tell me hers.

“I want to complete everything you have to offer,” she says with determination, referring to the other programs offered at Literacy Kansas City. She is particularly interested in math tutoring and the digital life skills workshops designed to help students increase their comfort and efficiency with technology. Judging by her work ethic, this is definitely an achievable dream for Kim.

“Kim is such a positive presence in class,” her teacher Sarah told me. “She’s always there and she always works hard. She’s so friendly and so eager to learn.”

As I wrapped up my interview with Kim, I asked her if there was anything she wanted people to know. What she said left me feeling humbled and thankful to have the opportunity to work with people like Kim every day.

“I was nervous at first, but you (Literacy KC staff and volunteers) make everybody feel so special. I feel like you guys really want to help us and accomplish our goals. This place is helping me change my life!”

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