1 Contact Information Literacy Action Robert W. Woodruff Volunteer Service Center 100 Edgewood Avenue, NE, Suite 650 Atlanta, Georgia For Marketing, Communications, Media Contact Alisa Bennett-Hart, Director of Marketing and Communications phone: For Programming, Teachers, Volunteers Ryan Hall, Director of Programs phone: For Development, Donations, Sponsorships Dan Lavery, Director of Development phone: Literacy Action is the oldest, largest, and leading adult literacy nonprofit in the Southeast. It has a $1.75M operating budget, 25, staff and over 1,000 students. All classes are free.
2 Literacy Fast Facts Georgia There are more than 1.3 million Georgians over the age 25 without a high school credential. Of those, only 5% are enrolled in literacy programs. Georgia s 2013 high school graduation rate is 71.5%, Atlanta public schools is 59%. Every dollar invested in literacy programs returns $33 to the community in the form of reduced recidivism, better public health, engaged parents, and knowledgeable workers. United States - Federal literacy and basic education programs only reach 3 million (3 percent) of those in need of adult literacy services. Only about 12 percent of Americans have the skills necessary to navigate the health care system. Parents with a high school diploma or a GED certificate are 11 percent more likely to assist their children with homework than those who did not complete high school. 39 million adults aged 16 and older in the United States lack a high school credential and are not enrolled in any educational program. Forty-one percent of inmates have not completed high school. A one percent increase in the high school completion rate of all men ages 20 to 60 would save the U.S. as much as $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime.
3 Vision, Mission and Locations Vision To set the standard of excellence in the field of adult basic education and to ultimately eradicate low literacy, a root cause of poverty, in the Atlanta area. Mission To build better futures for undereducated adults by teaching literacy, life and work skills that empower them to reach their highest potential. Locations Literacy Action operates two offices, one in downtown Atlanta and one in downtown Decatur; all of its other sites are through existing partnerships with private institutions, nonprofits, or governmental agencies. Robert W. Woodruff Volunteer Service Center (Main Office) 100 Edgewood Avenue, NE, Suite 650 Atlanta, Georgia Decatur Campus 246 Sycamore Street, Suite 110 Decatur, Georgia Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center 967 Dewey Street, SW Atlanta, Georgia Woodward Academy 1662 Rugby Avenue College Park, Georgia Westside Works 201 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, NW Atlanta, Georgia Harris-Johnston Families First 25 Newcastle Street, SW Atlanta, Georgia All DeKalb County Public Libraries Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club 1330 North Druid Hills Road Atlanta, Georgia A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys & Girls Club 1015 O Kelly Street Conyers, Georgia 30012
4 History Founded in a church basement, Literacy Action is now the oldest, largest, and leading adult basic education nonprofit in the Southeastern United States Founding a Movement The spring of 1968 was a time of strife and change for the United States especially for Atlanta. The death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his funeral here in Atlanta were two extraordinarily emotional events that deeply impacted the community. During the funeral, Central Presbyterian Church, across from the Georgia State Capitol, opened its doors to serve thousands of visitors with housing and meals. This act of hospitality in a time of grief and crisis created pause within the congregation. Church members felt that now was the time for institutions to work to address the needs of the poor and live out Dr. King s vision. Just two months later, on June 12, 1968, Literacy Action was a product of that congregation s reflections. 1970s Adapting a Regional Mission In the early 1970s, volunteers from outside of the church began supporting Literacy Action to teach writing and reading skills; the Junior League of Atlanta was a lead institution in this effort. To this day, the JLA has a role advancing Literacy Action and working towards a more literate Atlanta region. The program grew, and, in 1974, a federal grant called the Right to Read program from the U.S. Department of Education established Literacy Action as one of 23 adult education centers in the United States. In 2013, it is the only surviving community-based organization of that original effort. Jim Radford, who now works on workforce development issues for the Atlanta Regional Commission, was the first program director of Literacy Action s Right to Read Academy. The Right to Read opportunity really expanded Literacy Action s scope into a city- and region-wide organization. With federal support, we opened up six additional sites, some in Southwest and Southeast Atlanta and one in Decatur. Even Mayor Maynard Jackson offered full support to the effort. The City offered us space free-of charge in the West End, Jim recalled. Very quickly, Literacy Action was teaching over 2,000 adults annually. 1980s Creating Literate Communities In the 1980s, Literacy Action experienced exponential growth throughout the Atlanta area, in Georgia, and even in the Southeast. Through relationships with Georgia Tech, Literacy Action piloted distance learning tools in the early 1980s for adult basic education teachers. Concepts, curricula, and competencies of Literacy Action were exported throughout the region. Dr. Ken Breeden, the first commissioner of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education (now called the Technical College System of Georgia), was very familiar with Literacy Action s pioneering work in those days because of his close relationship with Dr. Vernon Crawford. Vernon, retired Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, was Literacy Action s executive director when Ken first came on board with the technical colleges. Vernon and I used to travel the state, at the encouragement of and sometimes with the physical presence of Gov. Joe Frank Harris, recalled Ken. We were convinced that every county in the state needed an organization like a Literacy Action a community effort to address a community problem: low literacy. At the time, in 50% of Georgia s counties, one in four residents did not have basic reading skills. The idea developed and ultimately became the Certified Literate Community Program, now a department of the Technical College System of Georgia. Ken noted, Literacy Action and Dr. Crawford really spurred a holistic approach to Georgia s literacy challenges, and our state even all these years later is better for those efforts.
5 History ~ page s Developing the Workforce We were new in Atlanta and I found Literacy Action, Carol Bartlett remembers. I had taught English before, but the training from Literacy Action was phenomenal. We had wonderful students, says Bartlett; I always thought they were so brave to say publically that they couldn t read. Carol was impressed by the sheer number of adults willing to come forward and ask for help with something as private and personal as having difficulty with literacy. One student said that before coming to Literacy Action, her teachers would say things like I got mine, you get yours, and pass them on to the next teacher without helping them grow. I found out quickly that multiple students shared this neglect from public schools when they started in my classroom they were already discouraged, so we had to build them up from the beginning. Around the time I was there when we were housed in the Rich s downtown we were focused on workplace literacy, so we had the exciting challenge of moving our programming into the workplace along with technical vocabulary and practical applications for students. Looking back, Carol says she loved it. She worked with employees at several agencies, universities, and manufacturing plants. At Literacy Action, we were taught how to be effective teachers and how to help students meet their goals. Our work was so essential. Today, the work becomes more and more critical, especially in a digital age where literacy transcends written and oral communication. We all need more people willing to stand behind the efforts of Literacy Action, not just for its students, but for the impact their education has on all of Atlanta. 2000s Integrating Technology At the turn of the millennium, the increasing use of technology in all aspects of society affected Literacy Action s teaching methods. Thanks to the generosity of major corporations like IBM and UPS the organization outfitted its classrooms with appropriate technology and furnished computer labs for students. Computer classes became a core aspect of the curriculum. Former Literacy Action trustee, Norman Carmichael, always had a passion for education; his father, a junior high principal in Montgomery, Alabama, instilled the importance of education in Norm at a young age. Even as his career took a different trajectory into accounting he always stayed connected to educational causes. Evern Cooper Epps, then-president of the UPS Foundation, got me involved in Literacy Action. UPS has always been a strong supporter of education and literacy. I was particularly drawn to the intergenerational nature of the work that most students were heads of the household, said Norm. We began to see a shift in the age of our student population; more and more young people individuals who had dropped out of school but were quickly returning to get academic credentials they were flooding our programs in those years. With increasing need and a tough economy, finances suffered. As a board, we had some challenging years in the 2000s; corporate funding decreased substantially due to the economy. We worked hard to keep revenues up, but ultimately we had to do more with less, and the staff experienced cuts in hours and salary to make the program continue to serve the massive need we were experiencing. Beloved, long-time director, Mattie Eley, retired in 2006; her replacement was Emily Ellison, co-founder of the Atlanta Girls School. In 2007, Literacy Action moved from 101 Marietta Street, NW, to the Robert W. Woodruff Volunteer Service Center at 100 Edgewood Avenue, NE.
6 History ~ page s Opening Doors to Opportunity Today, Literacy Action offers classes to all levels of adult learners working toward a certain functionality goal or a specific credential, like passing the General Education Development (GED) exam. Classes are offered in three 15-week semesters per year; some are offered twice and others three times per week. All classes whether in reading, writing, mathematics, computer, work skills, soft skills, or book club are free to students. Health and financial literacy are components of every class at Literacy Action; an emphasis on real-world contexts advance learning for students. Literacy Action also offers ESL and citizenship courses as well as training for volunteers. Literacy Action s work, by design and by necessity, is intergenerational. Currently, over 80% of incoming students read and compute below the fourth grade level. Two-thirds of the student body is women, and two-thirds of the student body has school-aged children in the home. Literacy Action is a pipeline to employment, better wages, technical colleges, and the University System. In October, 2012, Austin Dickson became the seventh Executive Director of the organization.
7 Austin Dickson Executive Director Austin is the executive director of Literacy Action, one of the leading adult basic education nonprofits in the United States. There he oversees all aspects of the 46-year old organization. Serving more than 1,250 students per year, Literacy Action is a grassroots driver of economic development and provides various levels of educational services to advance adults towards employment, citizenship, better wages, technical college, and the University System. Before joining Literacy Action, Austin served as director of philanthropy for Action Ministries, a statewide, faith-based, homeless services and basic needs organization. He traveled across Georgia raising funds for the organization s various local programs. Austin has also worked for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta on its regional and environmental initiatives. A Texas native and TCU graduate, Austin earned master s degrees in religion from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Emory University and in public policy from Georgia Tech. Austin has taught philosophy at Clayton State University since He currently serves as the president of Community Farmers Markets operating the Grant Park, East Atlanta Village, and Decatur farmers markets and he also serves on the board of the East Lake Family YMCA and the Atlanta Music Project. After his tenure as the president of the East Atlanta Community Association ( ), the community received DeKalb County s Ernest Prather Neighborhood Award, which recognizes best practices in community development. Austin established a program that makes emergency home repairs for low- and fixedincome seniors in the East Atlanta area. A graduate of LEAD Atlanta (2012) and Leadership DeKalb (2013), Austin was named one of the Under 40 by Georgia Trend magazine, and, in 2014, he was named to Outstanding Atlanta and as a Young Gamechanger by GeorgiaForward. ~~~~~~ About Literacy Action Literacy Action s mission is to build better futures for undereducated adults by teaching literacy, life, and work skills that empower them to reach their highest potential. Literacy Action is the largest nonprofit provider of adult basic education in the Southeastern U.S.
8 Dr. Christopher Miller Board Chair Vice President of Employee Relations and Associate General Counsel, Southern Company Dr. Chris Miller is Vice President, Employee Relations and Associate General Counsel, for Southern Company, and also the Southern Company Services Compliance Officer. His responsibilities include, among other things, employee relations, EEO, affirmative action, immigration, enterprise information governance and records management. He was formerly a partner in the law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP, where he served as chief labor counsel for Southern Company and Mirant Corporation, and represented other energy services and Fortune 500 companies. He earlier served as law clerk to Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr. of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Dr. Miller received both his undergraduate degree and his law degree from Syracuse University in 1978 and 1981, respectively. He also received his M.A. (1986) in economics from the Maxwell School and Ph.D. (1991) in business administration from the Whitman School at Syracuse University. He has been part of Literacy Action since ~~~~~~ About Literacy Action Literacy Action s mission is to build better futures for undereducated adults by teaching literacy, life, and work skills that empower them to reach their highest potential. Literacy Action is the largest nonprofit provider of adult basic education in the Southeastern U.S.