First Literacy Raises Over $232,000 To Support Adult Literacy

first literacy 33rd spelling bee winning teamOn Thursday, March 30 twenty-one teams battled it out, spelling words that stumped even the savviest spellers. After four years of hosting the event virtually, the First Literacy Spelling Bee was once again held in person at the State Street Channel Center.

Families, community groups, and corporate teams put their spelling skills to the test in support of adult literacy. Teams were tasked with spelling words such as “prescriptivism” and “hartebeest”. The teams from State Street, Liberty Mutual, KPMG, Eaton Vance/Morgan Stanley, and UBS competed in the championship round where Eaton Vance/Morgan Stanley came out on top spelling the word “symptomatology” correctly.

“This event isn’t just about a spelling bee competition – which of course is fun – but more importantly, it’s about the adult learners who we support across the state of Massachusetts,” said Terry Witherell, First Literacy’s Executive Director. “There are a lot of adults who are looking for literacy resources. We know how to help them, but we don’t have enough resources.”

Jeff Beale, former First Literacy Board Chair, received the First Literacy Champion Award during this year’s event. The First Literacy Champion Award honors a long-time supporter of First Literacy’s work to help adult learners in Massachusetts improve literacy skills so they can succeed in every aspect of their lives.

Jeff has supported First Literacy’s work for over 29 years as a board member and a board chair. He has been a consistent presence at the annual Spelling Bee and has made a huge impact through his support of First Literacy.

While accepting the award, Jeff spoke about why First Literacy is important to him. “There are so many worthwhile charities and nonprofits in the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the thing I like to say is, adult literacy is something we know how to solve. We can’t fix a lot of issues, but we can fix this. If we continue to raise money, support innovative adult basic education programs, and enhance the adult literacy training for teachers – this is the one problem we can solve.”

Adult literacy is often overlooked; yet it is estimated that 17% of adults in Massachusetts are at risk for difficulties using and comprehending print material. The funds raised from the First Literacy Spelling Bee help support adults struggling with low literacy throughout Massachusetts. First Literacy’s free professional development workshops for teachers, grants for innovative new programs, and scholarships for adults continuing to higher education or vocational training help ensure that adult learners receive the support and resources they need to reach their full potential.

First Literacy scholar Julia Dupere shared her story during the event. Julia was born and raised in East Boston. She and her siblings had an unconventional upbringing. Julia’s first experience in a classroom was at the age of nineteen when she enrolled in the Harborside Community School Adult Education Program.

“With First Literacy’s help, I gained confidence in my ability to succeed in my educational journey – knowing there were people and resources available to help me and support me,” Julia said.

Julia is now working as a Veterinary Technician and planning to transfer to UMass Boston to finish her prerequisites in order to pursue a degree in Veterinary medicine.

Sponsors of the First Literacy 33rd Spelling Bee included State Street, Morgan Stanley/Eaton Vance, BNY Mellon, Franklin Templeton, Citi, SS&C, J.P. Morgan, American Moving & Installation, AST, Brookline Bank, Chris Walsh, Crimson Lion Foundation, Deloitte, Fahey Family Charitable Fund, First Literacy Associate Board, FIS, Jeffrey Beale, In Honor of Karen Morrissey, John Hancock, K&L Gates, KPMG, Liberty Mutual, MFS Investment Management, Michelle Gillespie Realtors, Morrow Sodali Fund, Newmark Group, Open Eye, Patti Quigley, PEAK Event Services, Point32Health, Putnam Investments, PwC, Ropes & Gray, Seyfarth, and UBS.

Photo Credit: Greg Ciccarelli

April 6, 2023

Sign Up to Receive First Literacy Emails

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

First Literacy will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.