Representatives from Dollar General and the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps congratulate an adult learner during the Ardmore Literacy Leadership graduation ceremony. From left to right: Riley Seals, senior director of Dollar General Distribution Center in Ardmore; Lesley Kutz, executive director at Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps; Alisa Giffith, GED graduate; and Janette Wood, Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps instructor.
I was fortunate enough to attend, the Ardmore Literacy Leadership’s (A.L.L.) third graduation event at the Ardmore Convention Center on the evening of May 26, 2016. The event recognized adult learners from various programs throughout the community.
The 2016 graduating class included 72 adults, some of whom received their GED or U.S. citizenship. Other learners recognized completed financial literacy courses, computer literacy classes, or job training programs. The learners participate in programs from five local programs: Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, Ardmore Public Library, Grace Center, New Dimensions Literacy Council, and Southern Oklahoma Technology Center.
Drew Beard, area director of the Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was the featured speaker. Drew delivered a message of hope and encouragement. He urged graduates to use the momentum from graduation to continue their education.
Alma Angelica Pursley was the student speaker for graduation. Alma earned her GED and studied at the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps. Alma delivered her speech in Spanish with an English translation printed in the program. Alma encouraged her fellow students to persevere, to continue to grow and work hard both academically and personally. She spoke of the satisfaction she felt after accomplishing her goal of receiving her GED, and of overcoming what she said was her biggest obstacle: herself. She thanked her family and the families of those present for supporting and encouraging students’ hard work, and for being a source of inspiration and motivation. While I was unable to understand her spoken words, Alma’s message was clear through her enthusiasm and pride for the accomplishments of the 2016 graduates.
Following the ceremony, graduates were able to take photographs with their families and their instructors. A.L.L. provided a plain photo backdrop or a backdrop with a banner that read “Congratulations Graduates.” Most, if not all, graduates took beautiful photos beaming with pride and accomplishment with their families. This event is an inspiring culmination of years of hard work. I was honored to be a small part of such a meaningful occasion.
The Ardmore Literacy Leadership coalition was formed to meet literacy needs of Southern Oklahomans through a variety and multitude of services. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation spearheaded the collaboration through a project called Expanding Access. Expanding Access brought together six national partners to work closely with local partners to increase literacy services in Ardmore. Dollar General has a long history of supporting literacy and basic education initiatives for adults, families, and youth.
Dollar General’s national partners are the American Library Association (Chicago, Illinois), the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy (Tallahassee, Florida), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (Washington, D.C.), Jobs for the Future (Boston, Massachusetts), the National Center for Families Learning (Louisville, Kentucky), and ProLiteracy (Syracuse, New York).
Local partners include Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, Ardmore Public Library, The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, New Dimension Literacy Council, St. Mary Catholic Church, Cities in Schools, Reading Room, Gloria Ainsworth Childcare and Learning Center, Southern Oklahoma Technology Center, and University Center of Southern Oklahoma.
ProLiteracy is gearing up to provide technical assistance and support for a fourth year in Ardmore. We look forward to continuing to watch the programs grow and flourish.
To help other adults gain the skills necessary to obtain their high school equivalency degrees, consider congratulating a graduate by giving the gift of an education backwards.