First Literacy Hosts Open House Thanking Supporters and Showcasing Progress Towards Eradicating Low Literacy Throughout Massachusetts
BOSTON, MA – Too often overlooked, adult literacy can be life-changing for those who missed the chance in early years to achieve basic skills, or for those for 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 is dedicated to making education accessible by funding innovative projects geared to teaching adults essential skills, awarding scholarships to adult learners continuing to higher education, and providing free evidence-based training and materials for Adult Basic Education teachers.
On Wednesday, September 21 First Literacy opened its doors to the public for the first time in two years. Like many other organizations, the pandemic forced the First Literacy office to close resulting in virtual gatherings.
“No one can deny that the last few years have been hard,” said Terry Witherell, First Literacy Executive Director. “But there have been a lot of good things that have happened too. We have seen how generous people can be. We have seen many people rise up and support First Literacy, despite challenging times.”
In 2021, an influx in donations from individuals and foundations allowed First Literacy to provide more funding to Adult Basic Education and ESOL programs so they could try new ways of teaching their students. First Literacy was also able to increase scholarships from $1,000 to $1,500 and award more scholarships than in any previous year. Pivoting to virtual gatherings allowed the organization to reach adult educators outside the Greater Boston area, by hosting professional development workshops via Zoom.
“The Open House was a great opportunity for our supporters to see First Literacy’s impact in person,” said Amy Letteney, First Literacy Development Director. “We’ve made great strides over the last few years, and this was a fun way to bring everyone together and celebrate our progress.”
During the Open House attendees had the chance to meet with First Literacy scholars and learn how a scholarship changed their lives.
Anny, a 2022-2023 First Literacy scholar, is from Colombia. She came to the United States a year ago. When she arrived in the U.S., she knew only a few words of English.
“The First Literacy scholarship means a lot,” said Anny. “When I came to the U.S., I had to start over. The scholarship is helping me achieve my goal to one day become a teacher.”
Attendees also visited the First Literacy Lending Library and toured the new First Literacy hybrid classroom, which makes it possible for educators to attend free workshops both in person and virtually.
In addition to meeting with scholarship recipients and touring the office, the event was an opportunity to shine a light on the importance of adult literacy during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. While childhood literacy receives a lot of attention, adult literacy is an often forgotten yet persistent issue. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 adults struggle to read basic sentences.
It is clear literacy is essential, but the meaning of literacy is a little different for everyone. Those who attended the Open House were encouraged to share their thoughts about what literacy means to them.
Jeff Beale, First Literacy Board member, shared his thoughts. “Literacy is a basic human right. It is our responsibility to do what is necessary to ensure that every human being experiences this right. Life without it is diminished in so many ways, impossible to quantify. Basic Literacy gives life meaning and allows for learning and expression, both vital elements of life.”