Literacy Initiative Sets Up Two Communities for Success
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on April 29, 2022 in categoryStories from the FieldcategoryNews

For the past 10 years, with funding and support from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, ProLiteracy has worked to reach more adults in need of literacy services through its Expanding Access initiative

The first phase of the program sought to reach adults by providing literacy instruction at the social service agencies they were already visiting. Success inspired us to take Expanding Access further and see how we could reach even more adults, and we created a long-term plan to serve entire communities. 

In 2013, we brought Expanding Access to Ardmore, Oklahoma, and in 2015, we entered Zanesville, Ohio. In the coming month, after years in these communities, we are drawing the initiative to a close, confident that we have laid a solid foundation for literacy efforts to continue.  

In both Ardmore and Zanesville, we took the Expanding Access model that we were using with social service agencies and implemented it within multiple programs at the community level. This way, we were able to almost blanket the entire geographic area with literacy services. Each program we partnered with found an aspect of our services that fit their needs. 

In the first year ProLiteracy and its partner programs worked on setting up their curriculum and tweaking it until we identified something sustainable. Since these were long-term initiatives, we were able to work with the programs and help them evolve and grow to increase community awareness for literacy at all levels. 

After working for 9 and 7 years in Ardmore and Zanesville, respectively, we are leaving on a high note. It has been an honor to work in these communities and watch literacy spread through families and neighborhoods. Below are summaries of our work and partnerships within both communities. 

While Expanding Access will no longer have an official presence in Ardmore and Zanesville, the long-term investment from both Dollar General Literacy Foundation and ProLiteracy in these communities sets up a solid foundation to build on.  

Ardmore, Oklahoma 

In Ardmore, we have been able to offer literacy services in a variety of contexts through our partnerships. 

  • The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma believes a community thrives when it can uplift those in need with education and assistance. Through Expanding Access, the Grace Center provides financial literacy education in the community to adults in partnership with Naomi House and Destiny House, among others. 
  • Ardmore Public Library provides ESL services as part of the Expanding Access initiative. Over the years it has assisted more than 20 participants in earning their U.S. citizenship. 
  • New Dimension Literacy Council (NDLC) enhances the lives of adults and youth by promoting dignity and strengthens the community by raising the literacy rate. NDLC provides adult basic education, citizenship, English language learning, pre-HSE, HSE prep, and offers youth tutoring. Expanding Access helped the NDLC increase the number of students it could serve, and thanks to funding the NDLC was able to start serving students online. 

As if that wasn’t enough, the presence of Expanding Access in the Ardmore community even led to a new literacy coalition. The Ardmore Literacy Leadership coalition was convened in 2014 to help bring together various organizations and community stakeholders to address the literacy needs of the Ardmore community. Through Expanding Access, the coalition started an annual Literacy Day at the Park event each August to provide families with school supplies, haircuts, dental care, and other services and supplies needed to get ready for school. Each spring, the coalition holds a graduation event for adult students who have made gains during the school year. 

Zanesville, Ohio 

Like we did in Ardmore, we were able to infuse multiple organizations across the Zanesville community with Expanding Access services. 

  • ForeverDads encourages, educates, and equips fathers to be present and involved within their families. With Expanding Access support, ForeverDads provides family literacy programming in the local school system. Breakfast with Dad events are a chance for children to eat breakfast with their dad while a volunteer reads a book and leads an activity around the book, and then each child receives a copy to read at home.  
  • Salvation Army in Zanesville, in addition to its emergency shelter, provides workplace readiness and financial literacy programming through Expanding Access to help residents attain employment and manage their finances so they can secure housing.  
  • Aspire at Mid-East Career and Technology Centers offers free classes, workshops, and programs to help students prepare for their chosen career pathway. For some, this includes getting a high school equivalency diploma, improving basic skills, or transitioning into an adult certification program, college, or employment. Expanding Access allowed Aspire staff to work closely with the Salvation Army to offer classes at the shelter. They also worked with the Salvation Army staff to provide evaluation tools for participants.  

In Zanesville, the existing Muskingum County Literacy Council joined in the efforts and started working with the Expanding Access initiative in 2017. Funding from Expanding Access allowed the council to hire two part-time staff members to help bring together various organizations and community stakeholders to address the literacy needs of the Zanesville community. Through the Expanding Access initiative, the council was able to hold a Bridges Out of Poverty Training, a Literacy Summit Event, and has helped bring the community together during COVID to help caregivers gain access to computers and the internet and connect tutors with school age children that needed help transitioning to virtual learning. 


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