Affordable Housing Communities Use Mobile Learning Fund to Teach English
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on November 23, 2021 in categoryStories from the Field

In Southern California residents of affordable housing communities get more than just a place to live. 

“Opportunity begins with a stable home,” said Brenda Avalos, senior community building coordinator with Community Housing Works. “So, within that stable home, what are the needs that the residents might possibly [have]? How can we support them? 

Community Housing Works’ mission is to meet the needs of its residents. It does this by providing resources that will help residents take ownership of their lives and become financially stable.  

As part of this initiative, the nonprofit holds food distributions, provides after school programs, and uses onsite learning centers to provide education in financial wellbeing, health and wellness, and English as a second language 

When people are offered education services where they live—within their community—the services become far easier to access. 

Community Housing Works, while not a traditional adult education program, started offering the Learning Upgrade app to residents at three of its locations in 2018. 

In a lot of our communities we offer ESL classes, so we wanted to be able to incorporate this program into our ESL classes,” Avalos said. 

Initially, 10 residents were using Learning Upgrade, however, they did not have access to the entire app. Using the demo, learners could only progress to a certain lesson and then they could not go any further.  

Avalos said even in those initial lessons, she could tell residents had made progress and she wanted to find a way to pay for full access to the app. 

“We should be able to do something to help these residents,” she remembers thinking. 

She started researching and Drew Robinson, the sales director at Learning Upgrade, introduced her to ProLiteracy’s Mobile Learning Fund. 

Avalos got permission from her supervisor to apply, and this past summer Community Housing Works received a grant from the Mobile Learning Fund for Learning Upgrade licenses with the goal of reaching 90 residents. 

“I have a resident where, you know, she speaks no English, Avalos said. “She has three kids—she is a single parent—and her kids always tell her, 'But you don’t speak English ... but you don’t understand, and I’m like, we have Learning Upgrade, you can start speaking English. 

So far, 25 residents have been onboarded onto the app and more are starting to hear about it. Avalos said she’s even noticed a couple people using the app for math and high school equivalency test prep. 

“We are slowly getting there,” Avalos said. 


Programs can apply for grants for digital education materials through the Mobile Learning Fund at  



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