First Literacy Celebrates Change-Makers and Innovators Impacting the Lives of Adult Learners Throughout Massachusetts
BOSTON, MA – Too often overlooked, adult literacy can be life-changing for those who slipped through the cracks of the education system or for those whom English is a new language. The ability to read and write can open pathways to fulfilling careers that benefit families and communities. First Literacy grants are dedicated to making education accessible by funding innovative projects geared to teaching adults essential skills.
On Friday, December 2, the 2021-2022 First Literacy grant recipients shared newly tested and impactful curriculum, resources, and initiatives that are making a difference in the lives of adult learners across Massachusetts.
The First Literacy Spotlight on Innovation in Adult Basic Education, held at Bunker Hill Community College’s Charlestown campus, included presentations from the five organizations that received First Literacy grants last year and featured keynote speaker Monique Tú Nguyen, Director of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement for the City of Boston.
Director Nguyen, the proud daughter of Vietnam War refugees, spoke on the importance of adult literacy in everyday life through her journey from childhood to where she is today. She shared the struggles her family went through as refugees. She explained how her mother blamed herself for not being able to read and understand English, despite the real fault lying within the social inequities that led to this disadvantage.
“It’s not [the adult learners’] fault,” she mentioned, “but social inequity for why adult learners fall through the cracks.”
The sense of injustice in education, especially within English learners and adult learners, is what drove Director Nguyen to Boston to work with immigrant services. She talked about democratizing education in Massachusetts, making it more accessible to lower income individuals, and plans for the Mayor’s Office to roll out their own grants to aid in Adult Basic Education.
“We want to work to make education accessible to as many people as possible… there’s so much hope for young people and old people – even adults, who feel like they haven’t had opportunities in education – to get it from support from the government and groups like [First Literacy],” said Director Nguyen.
The new program initiatives highlighted by grant recipients during the event included a memoir style writing program for adult learners, a consulting program to improve existing High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) programs in Spanish, a technical literacy program for immigrant English Language Learners who need help becoming proficient in using computers, a book club that supplies e-Readers and e-Books to adult students to increase access to literacy resources, and a Youth Re-entry program for recently incarcerated and court-involved/at-risk youth (ages 16 – 30) who need a HiSET/GED certification or to improve language proficiency.
“This funding stream is a way for us to offer opportunities that we would not have been able to do without organizations like [First Literacy]. A lot of our biggest funders don’t give us an opportunity to pay case workers, which is essential to helping our [young adults] get back on their feet,” said Lori D’Alleva, Director of the Charlestown Adult Education Program that runs the Youth Re-entry program.
Judith Roberts, Executive Director at the Literacy Project, recounted feedback from a participant of the memoir style writing program who talked about how much the program meant to him. He mentioned that, along with the hard skills of increased literacy, “[the program] helped [him] learn to love [himself] better”.
In addition to offering grants, First Literacy provides free professional development to adult educators and awards scholarships to adult learners pursuing higher education. Since the organization’s founding in 1988, over $6 million has been allocated to support teachers and innovative literacy programs and over 500 scholarships have been awarded.
“Adult learners deserve a chance to reach their goals,” said Terry Witherell, First Literacy Executive Director. “Through the First Literacy grant program, we support innovative educators and new initiatives that allow us to reach even more adult learners throughout Massachusetts.”