Learning to Read at 20 –A Literacy Success Story

It was July of 2015 when Jesse Berry-McKinnon first walked into the St. James Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) classroom. He was 20 years old at the time, and he had been unsuccessfully homeschooled.

“He told me that he could barely write letters and numbers and he couldn’t read. He could only write part of his name, but he didn’t know his address, much less how to write it,” said Berry-McKinnon’s instructor Kathy Amsinger.

Berry-McKinnon is unlike most who attend AEL, who need the services simply for review. Berry-McKinnon was being properly taught for the first time with the help of his classroom tutor, Karen Middleton. He had yet to earn his high school diploma.

“With tears welling in his eyes, he told me he was here to learn to read and write so people wouldn’t ever call him stupid anymore,” Amsinger said.

Much like Berry-McKinnon, about 12 percent of Missouri’s population ages 25 and older have less than a high school diploma, or nearly 730,000 people.

“This problem very much exists in Missouri’s East Central College service area,” said AEL Director Alice Whalen. “Franklin County has nearly 13,500 adults who do not have a high school education. Gasconade is close to 2,500, Phelps hovers around 5,600 and Warren has nearly 5,200 people without a high school diploma or High School Equivalency (HSE) Certificate.”

AEL exists to give their students the opportunity to earn their HSE. It also gives students a chance to learn English as a second language.

The importance behind attending AEL classes is not in the numbers, but in the long-term outcome of finishing a high school education. These achievements give way to a chance for people to get their dream job or just a better paying job. The more education an individual has, the more money they can expect to earn. Those with less than a high school education can expect to earn a $17,528 salary, those with an HSE can expect $24,315 and those with an Associate’s degree can expect $38,342.

“Increased education can have a large economic impact for an individual, but also for a community,” said Whalen, “Increased wages impact poverty rates, welfare participation, unemployment, healthcare costs, prison recidivism and tax revenues at both the state and national level.”

Now, just a year and a half later, Berry-McKinnon has made noticeable improvements and was tested near a fourth-grade reading level.

“If this program wasn’t available, he would most likely spend the rest of his life in poverty and ignorance” Amsinger said, “I believe, based upon his determination to follow through on this venture, that he will be a very successful young man.”

Classes are offered during the day in Rolla, Gerald, Sullivan, Union and Washington. Evening classes are offered in Pacific, Union, St. Clair, Washington, Cuba, Hermann, Owensville, Rolla and St. James.

“Adult Education and Literacy Programs are trying to make a difference in the lives of these students,” said Whalen. “It’s amazing to see how immigrants are learning English and gaining the skills to become productive United States citizens. It’s inspiring to watch a tutor helping a student sound out new words. AEL graduation day is the best day of the year.”

Registration for both the Adult Education classes and the English learning classes is free and goes on year-round. For more information about the dates and times of these classes, call 636-584-6533 or visit www.eastcentral.edu/ael/.

Literacy Council Partners for “Big Read”

East Central College, Scenic Regional Library, Washington Public Library, East Central Area Literacy Council, and several other local businesses and organizations are partnering to apply for a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Big Read grant in January 2019.

The NEA awards about 75 Big Read grants to communities across the country each year. The objective of the Big Read is to get as many people as possible in a community reading and discussing the same book. The grants—which range between $5,000 and $15,000—provide funds for a community-wide read which includes a kick-off event, programming around the theme of the novel, and book discussion groups about the novel. The month-long event culminates with a visit by the author. The author visit would be incorporated into East Central College’s speaker series. The local Big Read event would take place in the fall of 2019. The grant would also provide funds to purchase over 1,000 paperback copies of the novel for check-out and distribution. The committee will work with local high schools and encourage them to incorporate the novel selected into their English classes’ curriculum.

The NEA provides a list of 32 books from which applicants for the grant can choose. The local Big Read committee has narrowed the list down to three titles. The three finalists for the community read are Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The partner-organizations decided to have the public make the final selection. The vote will take place during National Library Week, April 9 through 14. Individuals can pick up and submit a paper ballot at any Big Read partner location. They can also complete the ballot online by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BigRead2019.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia is the favorite child and middle daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, a Chinese American couple living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.  When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. Each family member deals with Lydia’s death in a different way but it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.  A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You explores the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovers the ways that families struggle, throughout their lives, to understand each other.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who left the family to work in the United States. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, Into the Beautiful North is the story of an irresistible young woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

After a devastating flu pandemic changes civilization as we know it, Kirsten Raymonde and a small troupe of actors and musicians travel between settlements, dedicated to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive.  They call themselves The Traveling Symphony. When they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence.  And as the dystopian story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

For more information about the NEA’s Big Read grants, visit www.arts.gov/partnerships/nea-big-read

Furlong Joins Literacy Council Board

John T. Furlong (center left) is welcomed by East Central Area Literacy Council Board members (from left to right): Dan Woodward, vice-president; Jean Craft-secretary; Alice Whalen, executive director; Kathryn Whyte; and Diane Crowder

John T. Furlong, director of library and learning resources at Missouri S&T’s Curtis Laws Wilson Library has joined the East Central Area Literacy Council as a member of the board of directors.

Furlong was appointed as director of the Curtis Law Wilson Library in September 2017. He has many years experience in library management beginning with his work as director of Brentwood Public Library for 11 years. He worked for St. Louis Community College beginning in 2010 where he also taught classes on information literacy as an adjunct faculty instructor.

Executive director, Alice Whalen, said that Furlong is a welcome addition on the board of director’s. “With this nomination, both the S&T and Rolla Public Library’s will have an influence on the efforts of the literacy council to impact the lives of adults in Phelps County through adult literacy education.” Diana Watkins, director of the Rolla Public, has been a member of the literacy council since 2016.

A press release from Missouri S&T announcing Furlong’s appointment also notes that he is a member of the Missouri Library Association and the American Library Association (ALA) as well as the ALA’s Library Leadership and Management Association and the International Relations Round-Table. Furlong earned a master of library and information science degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor of arts degree in history from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.

Central Federal Makes Donation to Literacy Council

Bill Stoltz, President and CEO of Central Federal Bancshares, presents Alice Whalen, Executive Director of the East Central Area Literacy Council and their Board of Directors, with a check for $2,000 to assist in purchasing training materials and other needs of their literacy program.

 

The East Central Area Literacy Council will help more students obtain a high school equivalency certificate, learn English, prepare for secondary education and learn new job skills thanks to a generous donation from a local business.

On January 30, Central Federal Bancshares CEO Bill Stoltz presented a $2,000 check to the East Central Area Literacy Council to assist in purchasing training materials and other needs. In partnership with the Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) Program at East Central College, the council helps students improve their skills in basic math, reading, writing, social studies and science.

“Our services are very much needed in the East Central College service area,” said East Central College AEL Director Alice Whalen. “Franklin County has nearly 13,500 adults who do not have a high school education. Gasconade is close to 2,500, Phelps hovers around 5,600 and Warren has nearly 5,200 people without a high school diploma or High School Equivalency (HSE) Certificate.”

The donation was made in collaboration with the Central Federal Community Foundation, established to provide financial support to charitable organizations in the communities served by Central Federal.

 

Bank of America Supports Adult Literacy With $2,500 Grant

The Bank of America Foundation recently donated $2,500 to East Central Area Literacy Council. The donation will go toward the volunteer tutor training program. The East Central Area Literacy Council will use the grant funds to recruit and train volunteers to work with adults in the East Central College Adult Education and Literacy program.  The AEL program coordinated by ECC serves students who are learning English, need to complete their high school education, or prepare for college or career changes.  The Literacy Council also provides tutors for individuals who do not know how to read. Tutoring sessions are available at local libraries as well as AEL classrooms.

”Volunteer tutors are key to the success of our students who are learning to read and for immigrants to learn English. The individual attention and support provided to our students is invaluable,” said Pamela Kaiser, Volunteer Coordinator for the East Central Area Literacy Council.

The East Central Area Literacy Council began in November 2010 as a volunteer board of directors and assists the ECC Adult Education and Literacy program by recruiting and training volunteer tutors, raising awareness of the issues of illiteracy in the counties served, and receiving donations to purchase training materials, instructional materials, or other needs of the program.  In addition to Kaiser, other members of the Literacy Council include Steven Campbell, Diane Crowder, Diana Watkins, Gregory Gelles, Jackie Gilliam, Janece Martin, Jean Craft, Joan Morris, Kathryn Whyte, Dan Woodward, and Alice Whalen, Executive Director.

Two volunteer training sessions will be Monday, May 8 and Wednesday, May 10 in Rolla or St. James, and Thursday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 16 in Union, Missouri. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor with the East Central Area Literacy Council, please call Pam Kaiser at (636) 584-6788 or call (844) ECC-4AEL (844-322-4235). The literacy council also needs volunteers to serve on its board of directors.

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation supports nonprofit organizations providing access to skills training, credentialing and education – regardless of gender, race, criminal record or disability – that will enable individuals to connect to jobs and develop a stronger financial future. Today, more than 48 million people are living in poverty and struggling to meet their needs while facing tough choices on where to place limited resources. Bank of America recognizes that basic needs must be met in order for families to advance along the economic continuum. In addition, access to education and job training are critical to lift people out of poverty, connecting them to tools that will help them build better lives.

United Way of Phelps County Adds Literacy Council to List of Program Partners for 2017

united-way-logoThe United Way of Phelps County recently added the East Central Area Literacy Council to its list of program partners for 2017.

The donation will go toward the volunteer tutor training program. The East Central Area Literacy Council will use the grant funds to recruit and train volunteers to work with adults in the East Central College Adult Education and Literacy program.  The AEL program coordinated by ECC serves students who are learning English, need to complete their high school education, or prepare for college or career changes.  The Literacy Council also provides tutors for individuals who do not know how to read. Tutoring sessions are available at local libraries as well as AEL classrooms.

United Way and East Central Area Literacy Council Representatives
East Central Area Literacy Council board member, Dan Woodward; executive director, Alice Whalen; and vice-president, Diane Crowder, with Teri Beaugard, United Way Executive Director. Photo credit, United Way of Phelps County

”Volunteer tutors are key to the success of our students who are learning to read and for immigrants to learn English. The individual attention and support provided to our students is invaluable,” said Alice Whalen, Executive Director from East Central Area Literacy Council.

The East Central Area Literacy Council began in November 2010 as a volunteer board of directors and assists the ECC Adult Education and Literacy program by recruiting and training volunteer tutors, raising awareness of the issues of illiteracy in the counties served, and receiving donations to purchase training materials, instructional materials, or other needs of the program.  In addition to Whalen, other members of the Literacy Council include Steven Campbell, Jean Craft, Diane Crowder, Gregory Gelles, Jackie Gilliam, Janece Martin, Joan Morris, Diana Watkins, Kathryn Whyte, and Dan Woodward.

United Way of Phelps County is a locally run chapter of the United Way Worldwide umbrella organization. Each United Way operates independently and is locally governed. A volunteer Board of Directors oversees our strategic direction and steers our financial decisions.

The United Way of Phelps County raises funds through workplace campaigns, community supported events and individual donors. During the more than 50 years United Way of Phelps County has been part of the community; many thousands of individuals have contributed to United Way.

United Way was built on the belief that together, we can accomplish more than any individual or organization can alone.We help and collaborate with local nonprofit agencies, providing financial, volunteer and advocacy support, and we review these agencies each year to ensure they do the best possible work in the community.

Archer Daniels Midland Grant Supports Volunteer Recruitment and Training

Archer Daniels Midland Company recently donated $1,500 to East Central Area Literacy Council. The donation will go toward the volunteer tutor training program. The East Central Area Literacy Council will use the grant funds to recruit and train volunteers to work with adults in the East Central College Adult Education and Literacy program.  The AEL program coordinated by ECC serves students who are learning English, need to complete their high school education, or prepare for college or career changes.  The Literacy Council also provides tutors for individuals who do not know how to read. Tutoring sessions are available at local libraries as well as AEL classrooms.

”Volunteer tudscf9188tors are key to the success of our students who are learning to read and for immigrants to learn English. The individual attention and support provided to our students is invaluable,” said Alice Whalen, Executive Director from East Central Area Literacy Council.

The East Central Area Literacy Council began in November 2010 as a volunteer board of directors and assists the ECC Adult Education and Literacy program by recruiting and training volunteer tutors, raising awareness of the issues of illiteracy in the counties served, and receiving donations to purchase training materials, instructional materials, or other needs of the program.  In addition to Whalen, other members of the Literacy Council include Steven Campbell, Diane Crowder, Diana Watkins, Gregory Gelles, Jackie Gilliam, Janece Martin, Jean Craft, Joan Morris, Kathryn Whyte, and Dan Woodward.

Two volunteer training sessions will be held in Rolla on Thursday, December 15, 2016 for individuals interested in becoming volunteer tutors. The first will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at First Baptist Church of Rolla at 801 N. Cedar St. and another session in the evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at East Central College in Rolla on Forum Dr. Call 573-719-1323 for session locations and to register as a volunteer. The literacy council also needs volunteers to serve on its board of directors.

The donation was given through ADM Cares. ADM Cares is a social investment program that directs funds to initiatives and organizations that drive meaningful social, economic and environmental progress worldwide. The program comprises three distinct focus areas: supporting the responsible development of agriculture, improving the quality of life in ADM communities and fostering employee giving and volunteer activities.

 

East Central Area Literacy Council Receives National Book Fund Grant

Grants for educational materials

The National Book Fund makes grants for educational materials to adult literacy and adult basic education programs to help teach adults to read.logo_proliteracy

Before ProLiteracy established theNational Book Fund (NBF), literacy programs that couldn’t afford to buy books for students and instructors simply did without them. Students shared worn-out books with other students. Instructors used cast-off books, outdated resources, and photocopies during lessons. But today, with the help of NBF, we’re changing all that.

In 1995, using only donated funds, the NBF began providing local literacy programs throughout the United States with New Readers Press books and other educational materials.As a result of this grant, the East Central Area Literacy Council will be able to provide the following books for English language classes offered in partnership with East Central College Adult Education and Literacy:

3 teacher’s guides and CDs with 10 student textbooks each – Citizenship: Passing the test
3 copies – 101 American English Idioms
20 sets of the following 32 page booklets with teacher’s guide and CD with activities:
Black Widow Beauty
Danger on Ice
No Way to Run
Empty Eyes
Mystery Quilt
Kula’I Street Knights
The Ritual
The Experiment
75 Cent Son
Empty Eyes
The Very Bad Dream

Alice Whalen, executive director for the East Central Area Literacy Council, stated, “These resources will be a helpful addition to our English language classes. Students will be able to participate in reading groups to enhance both their listening and speaking skills.”

 

$10,000 Dollar General Foundation Grant to Support Adult Literacy

$10,000 Grant Awarded to East Central Area Literacy Council

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation recently awarded the East Central Area Literacy Council a $10,000 grant to support adult literacy.  This local grant award is part of over $7.1 million in grants awarded to more than 900 schools, nonprofits and organizations across the 43 states that Dollar General serves.

The East Central Area Literacy Council will use the grant funds to recruit and train volunteers to work with adults in the East Central College Adult Education and Literacy program.  The AEL program coordinated by ECC serves students who are learning English, need to complete their high school education, or prepare for college or career changes.  The Literacy Council also provides tutors for individuals who do not know how to read. Tutoring sessions are available at local libraries as well as AEL classrooms.

“Consistent with our mission of serving others, we are excited to provide organizations with funding to further literacy and education across the communities we call home,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO.  “It is always so exciting to see the true and meaningful impact the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has on both children and adults looking to improve their lives through literacy.  The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education.”

DG logoSince its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $120 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 7.3 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education.

“Volunteer recruitment and tutor training are key to providing support to students seeking to improve their basic skills,” noted Alice Whalen, executive director of the Literacy Council and director of the AEL program at East Central College. “Students who have already faced many challenges can receive the encouragement they need to complete their education with the support of the volunteers.”

Two training sessions will be held in Rolla this summer for individuals interested in becoming volunteer tutors.  The first will be held Thursday, July 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. and another session is scheduled for Wednesday, August 3 from 9 a.m. to noon.  Call 573-719-1323 for session locations and to register as a volunteer.

The East Central Area Literacy Council began in November 2010 as a volunteer board of directors and assists the ECC Adult Education and Literacy program by recruiting and training volunteer tutors, raising awareness of the issues of illiteracy in the counties served, and receiving donations to purchase training materials, instructional materials, or other needs of the program.  In addition to Whalen, other members of the Literacy Council include Steven Campbell, Diane Crowder, Gregory Gelles, Jackie Gilliam, Janece Martin, Joan Morris, Kathryn Whyte, and Dan Woodward.

East Central College Adult Education and Literacy has provided free adult education classes for over 28 years at sites throughout the college district.  In 2014 ECC took over administration of adult education classes that had been offered by the South Central Missouri Literacy Council.  This shift allows for greater opportunities and a larger impact on the students in adult education and literacy programs in the east central area of Missouri. The literacy partnership incorporates the working relationship with ECC’s Adult Education and Literacy program as well as Y-Literacy of St. Louis which operates in Franklin and Gasconade counties.

Certified teachers work at each class site, and all instructional materials are provided at no charge to the students.  Day AEL classes are being held this summer in Rolla, Sullivan, Union, and Washington.  Night classes are currently held in eight communities:  Cuba, Hermann, Owensville, Pacific, Rolla, St. Clair, St. James, Union, and Washington.  English Language classes are held in Rolla and Washington.

For information on AEL classes, individuals can call 636-584-6533 or 573-719-1323.  Staff can also be reached by emailing: ael@eastcentral.edu.