News & Blog: Community

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The Literacy Center is taking the following steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus:

  • The Literacy Center's office is closed at this time. All staff are working remotely and accessible via email. With general questions, contact info@literacycenterwm.org
  • Our Spellebration event originally planned for March 26, 2020 will be a virtual event held on June 4, 2020.  
  • Remote learning resources will be posted on social media and sent via email as they become available.

We will continue to keep our website and social media updated. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at info@literacycenterwm.org or via Facebook.

El Literacy Center ha tomado las siguientes medidas para limitar la propagación de COVID-19:

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The Community Literacy Summit will be held on Friday, Feb. 28 from 7:30 AM- 2:00 PM at the GVSU Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The half day event will address the language and literacy development in young children ages birth to five, specifically those that lead to kindergarten readiness and grade level reading. Below are a listing of the 10 Summit breakouts offered during two sessions. Register for the event today

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed: Developing Literacy Birth to Five, will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 7:30 am- 2:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit2020

The Literacy Center's staff and Summit planning committee spent many, many hours researching keynote speakers for our 2020 Summit. One name (well, more like one TEDx Talk) rose above the rest. Dr. Keisha Siriboe impressed everyone with her dynamic presentation style, and her depth of knowledge on early childhood literacy and parent-child reading aloud. 

The Literacy Center of West Michigan received the Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding National Service Program for its work in improving adult literacy through its Family Literacy program. The award was presented to the Literacy Center of West Michigan by Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission at a ceremony on Thursday, September 5 at the Detroit Opera House.  

Johana Rodriguez Quist Hired as Family Literacy Program Director

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is pleased to announce Johana Rodriguez Quist as the new director of its Family Literacy ProgramJohana Rodriguez Office Shot 2018, a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

“Our Family Literacy Program aligns parents’ education with what their children are learning in the classroom,” said Dr. Wendy Falb, executive director of the Literacy Center of West Michigan. “Johana’s experience supporting parents in the public schools gives her a deep understanding of the need for teaching parents the language skills necessary to break the generational cycle of low literacy.”

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One thing is clear from West Michigan business owners: the labor market is tight. With an unemployment rate of 4% as of January 2018, employers are actively searching for innovative ways to attract and retain talent. Irwin Seating Company, a Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company, was no exception. They had a number of temporary employees without GEDs or diplomas who had applied for permanent employment, but were unable to get past the interview stage due to their literacy barriers.

Connector, partner, bridge-builder, advocate. These are the words that everyone in town uses to describeJohn has led us to engage John Helmholdt, recipient of this year’s Ledy Award for Community Engagement.

For the last 10 years, John has used these skills in his role as the Executive Director for Communications and External Affairs at Grand Rapids Public Schools to build social capital and strengthen confidence in our city’s public school system. 

Guest blogger Fritz Crabb worked with Tony Campbell for many years at Heart of West Michigan United Way. In addition to being close friends, the two shared a passion for educating young people in this community. 

When Tony Campbell arrived at Heart of West Michigan United Way, he arrived with the resume, the personality, and theTony Spellebration intelligence to hit the ground running. And he did just that. Tony became a fixture in the non-profit community locally and throughout Michigan, finding ways to connect divergent groups and to get things done.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator, writes about attending last month's TESOL International Convention

During the last week of March, several Literacy Center staff members and instructors attended the TESOL (Teaching TESOL 1 copyEnglish to Speakers of Other Language) 2018 International Convention in Chicago. There were over 6,500 attendees and some 1,000 educational sessions to choose from, so we were able to meet and learn from other English teaching professionals from around the world.

Mark Peters is the CEO of Butterball Farms, Inc. and the Chair of the Literacy Center's Donor Development committee

Mark PetersLiteracy. Why is it important?  Well, if you are reading this, you may actually take your literacy for granted.  But imagine for a moment that reading this was a matter of life and death. Maybe your own, or maybe that of a loved one. Imagine that this paragraph was the dosage instructions for one of your parent’s heart medicines, and you could not read it.  The reality is that 10-15% of the adult population in West Michigan would not be able understand this paragraph.

A brief introduction to our newest staff member, Queyonna Hunt

I’m Queyonna Hunt, the new Literacy Coordinator of the Adult Tutoring Program with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. I am writing to introduce myself, and will provide you with all the best tidbits so as not to bore you. So, let's start with a list of all the odd jobs I have had before becoming a Literacy Coordinator.Queyonna

The first job I ever had was a cashier position at Popeye's Chicken n' Biscuit; I was 16-years-old. At 21, I worked at a tattoo parlor with intimidating looking people with the softest hearts. Ink'd Up Tattoos was where I learned not to judge a person by the way they look. I sweated and toiled on a homestay farm in the U.P. and traveled to countless music festivals across the U.S. as a food vendor selling gourmet tacos.

Take a moment to explore the 10 breakout sessions offered at this year's Community Literacy Summit. Interested in attending this half-day event on January 25? Visit the Community Literacy Summit event page to register today. Space is limited and the event will sell out. 

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit

Claudio SanchezWhile this may not be a familiar face, it’s likely a familiar voice to anyone who listens to public radio.

Claudio Sanchez, Education Correspondent for NPR, will be joining us as our keynote speaker at the Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Community Literacy Summit on January 25, 2018. The half day event, held at the Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids, will address the topic Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility. Mr. Sanchez’s keynote will provide a national context for the conversation about grade level reading proficiency.

 The Literacy Center's Eleventh Annual Wine & Words event will be hosted at 333 Fountain Street NE on Wednesday, November 8 from 6-9 pm. Purchase tickets online at www.literacycenterwm.org/wine-words

The lovely Italianate home, located at the corner of Fountain and Prospect in Grand Rapids' Heritage Hill district, House Photo 2was constructed in the 1876 by Norman D. Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was a partner in Carpenter, Judd & Company, a wholesale and retail dealership specializing in hardware and stoves. He resided in the home until the 1890s when he sold it and moved to Los Angeles.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar, M.Ed.
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center.

There has been no shortage of debate about the State of Michigan’s recent law on third grade reading. Schools arechild reading currently working to get the word out to families about the law and its implications, while also preparing teachers for upcoming meetings with parents. Improving reading results for children in West Michigan is important to all of us.

This year’s Community Literacy Summit seeks to bring together community members to further discuss and understand the issues and conditions associated with a child reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Do you have something to contribute to the conversation? Our deadline has been extended to October 30 for presentation proposals for our break-out sessions.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Community Literacy Summit will be held on Thursday, Janunary 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. 

As many of us have heard by now, third grade reading is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. According to The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, approximately 67% of children nationwide are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. It jumps to 80% for children from families with low incomes. Locally, half of all students in Kent County are not reading proficiently by third grade. For students of color, that number rises to 74%.

These statistics have very real and very significant consequences not only for each of these children, but also for ourParent and child reading community. If left unchecked, these low levels of proficiency will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates. Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to participate in higher education and in our growing local economy.

We are pleased to announce the hire of Miguelina Quiñones as the new director of our Family Literacy Program Miguelina Quinones(FLP), a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Miguelina has been a classroom teacher and school administer for 20 years. She earned her B.A. from Herbert H. Lehman College and M.A. from College of New Rochelle, and is certified in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

 Written by Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English 

Developing a strong community within a classroom is one of the keys to educational success. This is perhaps even moreClassroom celebration important in a classroom of adult English language learners. After all, many of them are new to the country, or feel isolated because of their lack of English skills. In our own classes, we strive to create a sense of community in order to lessen some of that isolation and “otherness” that our learners might experience outside of the Literacy Center.

The Literacy Center offers three levels of classes to English language learners each quarter. The classes, which take place three times a week at our office, are led by instructors who work incredibly hard to not only teach English, but to create connections between learners.

Rick and Loy Adamy have never been ones to seek attention. Rick, founder and CEO of Adamy Valuation Advisors, and Loy, Rick Spellebration 2013an elementary school teacher, have instead worked quietly and steadfastly on issues that matter to them, including literacy. 

Knowing this, Jean Dugan recruited Rick to join the Literacy Center Board of Directors in 2008. She remembers, “I knew Rick for many years and was well aware of his strong leadership skills and his deep passion for this community. Recruiting him to the board at the Literacy Center made perfect sense. He was a wonderful addition.”

When Rick was elected president of the board in November 2012, it quickly became clear that his two-year term would be anything but routine. In 2013, founding director of the Literacy Center, Susan Ledy, announced her retirement and a search began for her successor. During the transition, Rick took it upon himself to shoulder the responsibility of the organization, safeguarding the mission for the next chapter. Laurie Z. Emelander, Finance Director, remembers: “It was a very stressful time for all of us. Rick’s trust in the staff and his guidance during that time was invaluable.”

Adamys at PicnicNot only did Loy share Rick with the Literacy Center during that demanding time, she got involved herself. Loy began tutoring Kamala, a mother of three from Sudan. Kamala and Loy spends 2 hours a week together, working on Kamala’s reading and listening skills. It’s even become a family affair with Rick and Loy both engaging with Kamala and her children.

Rick and Loy will be receiving our Meijer Champion of Literacy Award at our 24th annual Spellebration event. Join on May 11 as we recognize these important contributors to our mission. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/spellebration

Christina Arnold's Sense of Place

Christina Arnold, recipient of this year's Award for Community Engagement at our annual Spellebration event, has a profoud sense of place. Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Christina is the granddaughter of Daniel Christina and Mayor BlissVargas, a Mexican immigrant and one of the first Latino leaders in the community. As she tells the story, her grandfather would welcome anyone into his Grand Rapids home, providing translation services and support to his neighbors.

Formed in part by her grandfather’s passion for the Latino community in Grand Rapids, Christina spent her career at Grand Rapids Community College, helping others access educational opportunities. She was a student, then a secretary, and then an administrator. She is perhaps best known for the role she helped create at GRCC: Director of the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion.

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