by Kirby Lindsay, posted 7 April 2014
On May 7th, at 7:30a, in the Gwinn Commons of Seattle Pacific University, the annual Literacy Source Fundraising Breakfast will give those who support education for adults a chance to hear from Nancy Pearl, and students of the community learning center, about the incredible impact being able to read can make in changing a life.
Since 1986, Literacy Source has helped transform lives through its free classes and tutoring for low-income, motivated adults who want to improve their literacy skills. In 2010, Lindsey Kafer went to work at Literacy Source, as an Advisor, after getting a Master’s Degree in Adult Basic Education & Training at Seattle University. “I love that it is a place where everyone that walks in there wants to be there,” she said about Literacy Source – and she includes everyone, from students through the staff and on to include the squadron of volunteers that make it possible for the non-profit to help others.
‘Sense Of Community’
According to Kafer, Dr. Robert Hughes, Associate Dean of the College of Education at Seattle U., recommended she apply to work at Literacy Source after she graduated – and she remains grateful for his advice. “There’s a warmth and sense of community, among all of us, that is unique,” Kafer said. The organization also has a unique, collaborative relationship going on between the staff and the Board of Directors, who work so closely with the staff that Kafer knows them by name.
Dr. Hughes consults with the Literacy Source Board, facilitating retreats and their development of a new strategic plan. “It’s one of the best managed, community-based organizations I know,” he observed, “what’s interesting to me is when an organization takes the strategic plan and absorbs it into their core.” The Board and Staff at Literacy Source developed the plan through collaboration, with everyone buying in. “I’m thoroughly impressed,” he said.
Add to that, in 2013, Literacy Source went through a significant change as founding Executive Director, Anne Helmholz, retired and the Board found Lynn Livesley to take over. “Anne and Lynn are two of the strongest CEOs I know,” Dr. Hughes observed, “anytime they call, I will answer.”
As the Associate Dean, Dr. Hughes works in partnership with several organizations, as students seek out internships and placements. Among all of Seattle University’s partner organizations, Dr. Hughes thinks Literacy Source is one of the best. “It’s a great relationship,” he said about placing students there, “because I know they will have a positive experience. It’s mutually beneficial to us. It’s the definition of a partnership – everybody gets what they need, and everyone contributes.”
‘A Very Complex Task’
The partnership between the University and the community-based learning center has benefitted the students at Literacy Source in profound ways. When Kafer came to Literacy Source, she brought with her a degree in Adult Education, knowing the latest research and applications in helping students succeed. “I think the degree program has translated nicely,” she explained, “I’ve learned a lot since coming on staff, but I had a strong foundation from Seattle U.”
Teaching adults is different, and requires different approaches than teaching children. Children are blank slates, with little power, and depend upon the teacher for nearly everything. Adults arrive with life experience, an ability to harness what they already know and, sometimes, more appreciation of the skills they’ve developed.
As an advisor, Kafer helps these students, who want to learn but must often place school at a third priority, after kids, jobs, and/or other life obstacles. “We have to find a program that’s going to work with them,” she explained, “form a plan, and set a schedule. It’s not unusual for adult ed students to take time off.”
“Learning is a very complex task,” Dr. Hughes explained. “The myth is that it’s about making information available,” he said. There are three parts to learning, he explained, and only one concerns the cognitive ability and taking in information presented. “The way we react to a learning circumstance affects what we can absorb,” he observed about affect and emotions. Another factor is engagement. It’s important that students can connect what is being learned to their need or interest. As Dr. Hughes pointed out, when an adult decides to learn to play the piano, they won’t engage if forced to learn to play the trumpet too.
Most essentially, “you need to help learners succeed,” Dr. Hughes said, and show them ‘that’s what it looks like.’
For its part, Seattle U benefits from the partnership with Literacy Source in how the non-profit helps new immigrants and other marginalized people. Seattle U is a Jesuit University, Kafer observed, “and one of the main tenants is about social justice,” and the improvements in the lives of Literacy Source students certainly fits that mission.
The family literacy program, organized by a Seattle U intern at Literacy Source, also brings social justice. Based on “tons of research that has been done,” Kafer pointed out, “one indicator of a child’s education success is the level of the mother’s educational level.” The family literacy program, and the grant funds acquired by the intern to operate it, will offer parents an education directly designed to help them help their children succeed in school. As the parent becomes more literate, so will their children. Everyone benefits.
Reserve A Place Now
Located in Fremont, Literacy Source serves students all over the Seattle area, including in correctional facilities.) These students will be helped by the partnership with Seattle U, but only if donors turn out again this year and give at the fundraising breakfast on May 7th.
Thanks to sponsors, every dollar donated at the Literacy Source Breakfast will go towards funding operations of this vital organization. Not to mention, attendees will be entertained, engaged and enlightened by the stories of students, and the sage advice from Nancy Pearl. Reserve a seat now to attend!
Those unable to donate, either by attending or simply by giving through the Literacy Source website, may consider becoming one of the many volunteers who tutor and teach. Everyone is needed, but the skills to teach financial literacy are in particularly high demand just now. Find out more about volunteering for this trans-formative, community-based non-profit today!
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©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.