News & Blog


Blog Author: Iryna Kalenskaya , Literacy Center Learner 

"Hello.  My name is Iryna. I’m from Ukraine. I lived in a big industrial city of Zaporizhzhia.   I had a stable and peaceful life with my family. There are four of us. I have two kids. My daughter is 13 years-old and son is 11 years-old. I worked as a cosmetologist at the salon. I loved my job.

One day, the war comes into my country. It was the worsen day in my life.  Thousands of lives were destroyed. To protect my kids and my parents I decided to move to the USA. My husband stays in Ukraine. My sister lives in Grand Rapids. That’s why we came here.

ZEELAND, Mich. – December 2, 2022 – The Literacy Center of West Michigan today announced the completion of an onsite Customized Workplace English program at global design leader MillerKnoll. The 15-week class reduced English language literacy as a barrier for 11 MillerKnoll associates by providing contextual English language instruction using a tailored curriculum based on their specific workplace.

Leaving home is never easy. Imagine making the difficult decision to leave behind everything that is familiar—people, places, culture, and language—to start fresh someplace new. This was the decision facing Yaina Mitchell in 2009. While she didn’t want to leave her home in the Dominican Republic, she felt that the United States would give her access to more opportunities and her young children a chance at a better life.

 Victor Holt is the Latest Addition to the Board!

Victor is currently an Assistant Vice President, Financial Center Manager, for Fifth Third Bank's Main Office in Downtown Grand Rapids.

 The Literacy Center of West Michigan welcomes our newest board member, Monica Mendez from the Grand Rapids Chamber!

 Fung Tial and her tutor Sarabeth Carr have been working together since September 2019. Her tutor encouraged her to write an essay to practice her English, and so she chose to write about an important piece of culture from her home country (Burma). 

Nash Hirwa has joined the team as the Citizenship and Community ESL Coordinator.

"My passion for education comes from living in different communities and countries. I was raised in a small country in East Africa. Growing up my parents traveled a lot for work and that allowed me to learn 5 languages before I was 15.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – October 19, 2022 – The Literacy Center of West Michigan today announced it is the recipient of a $300,000 federal grant from the department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The funding will support the citizenship-based English as a second language (ESL) instruction and naturalization application services for 200 adults over a two-year period. The Literacy Center of West Michigan is partnering with Immigrant Connection at City Life Church to conduct the naturalization application services.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – October 18, 2022 – The Literacy Center of West Michigan today announced that Maleika Joubert Brown, Ed.S., has been appointed to its 13-member board. Brown currently serves as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Grand Rapids Public Schools. Brown officially was voted in at the Literacy Center of West Michigan board meeting on Wednesday, September 28, for a term expiring September 27, 2025.

 Guest Contributor

My name is Tyler Archambault, and I am a recent graduate from Northern Michigan University who started tutoring for the Literacy Center to fulfill the internship requirement for part of my undergraduate degree. Prior to tutoring English for the Literacy Center, I have also tutored students in German and Mandarin Chinese.

The Literacy Center of West Michigan today announced it is the recipient of a $110,000 Wege Foundation grant. The funding is being used to expand its Family Literacy Program (FLP). The program teaches parents the language and literacy skills they need to support their child’s education and strengthen the connection between home and school.

Bryan Salinas is a first-generation Marketing graduate from Ferris State University. He was born in McAllen, TX, but was raised most of his life in Holland, MI.

Marcus Little is a southern California native who has called West Michigan home along with his family (wife Kelsey, children Calvin, Eva and Joey, and overly entitled dog Patrice) since 2014.

Written by Cynthia Salinas, Communications Coordinator

“My motto has been and continues to be ‘progress (toward literacy) by the inch is cinch, by the yard is hard,'” volunteer tutor Terry Weinburger shares. 

Kee Hnin, a learner in the Literacy Center’s tutoring program, came to the United States with her family just before the pandemic began. Kee and her husband have three children. It was through a Kent County Head Start home visitor that Kee first learned about the Literacy Center’s tutoring program.

It is a well-known fact that construction has a history of being a male-dominated field. In fact, women make up only 11% of the construction workforce in the United States. For women like Patricia, the ability to see herself using power tools and hammers was a process of unlearning cultural norms.

Growing up Patricia only saw men in her family building things. “We thought we weren’t allowed to touch [tools], it’s men’s business” Patricia said.

Stephen Osborn will be recognized as our 2022 Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year at the Literacy Center's Spellebration event on March 23, 2022

Stephen Osborn understands the challenges of navigating a new country. Born in remote South America to missionary parents, Stephen did not live in the United States until he was 16. As he wrote in his original Literacy Center volunteer application in 2015, that experience gave him a special place in my heart for people learning English.”

Latesha Lipscomb is receiving the Literacy Center's 2022 Ledy Award for Community Engagement [sponsored by Fifth Third Bank] at our Spellebration event on March 23, 2022. 

Latesha Lipscomb is a Grand Rapids change agent. As a community activist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and mother, Latesha has made it her mission to build bridges and create inclusive, welcoming environments in her hometown.

Minnie Morey is the recipient of this year's Champion of Literacy Award [sponsored by Comerica Bank]. Minnie will receive the award at this year's Spellebration event on March 23, 2022. 

Minnie Morey is the kind of person who sees a need, steps up, and leads the way toward addressing it. For decades now, Minnie has championed the rich gifts brought to West Michigan by the immigrants and refugees from Asian countries. As a volunteer, an activist, and Executive Director of the West Michigan Asian American Association (WMAAA), Minnie has made it her mission to help remove the barriers that New Americans face in this country. George Aquino, Vice President/Managing Director of AHC+ Hospitality, writes of Minnie, “this petite woman is a GIANT in the Asian American community in the state.”

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – February 22, 2022 – The Literacy Center of West Michigan will recognize three community leaders at its 29th annual Spellebration event on March 23 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Bissell Tree House at John Ball Zoo. Minnie Morey, executive director, West Michigan Asian American Association (WMAAA), will receive the Champion of Literacy Award sponsored by Comerica. Latesha Lipscomb, director of engagement and relationships, AmplifyGR, will receive the Ledy Award for Community Engagement. And Stephen Osborn, a Literacy Center of West Michigan tutor, will receive the Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award.

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