If you’re a runner (or related to one), there’s a good chance you know a week from today is the Boston Marathon, so the timing couldn’t be better for my next Spotlight, a blog series highlighting the organizations you donate to as part of the Small Change initiative.
I first learned about First Literacy a year ago this month when a generous runner donated $25 to the organization when they ran last year’s Boston, the world’s oldest and many would say, most prestigious marathon.
When I chatted with Skye Kramer, the executive director of First Literacy a few weeks ago, it couldn’t have been a better setting for either of us; Skye was looking out of her Boston office window with snow still glistening the city from the previous day and I was nestled in a cabin near Mt. Hood surrounded by towering Doug Fir trees.
First Literacy believes in the transformational power of adult literacy and I’m honored to share more about this important organization.
What does First Literacy do?
Our mission is to ensure adults with low-literacy or limited English proficiency have high-quality educational opportunities that enable them to thrive as individuals and as family members, in their workplaces and communities. Since our founding in 1988, we have helped over 45,000 adults achieve their educational goals.
Our goals in support of our mission are to increase access to adult education services by raising financial support for community programs; promote innovation and best practices through Literacy Lab; and provide professional and leadership development workshops to adult educators throughout the area.
What is your greatest need as an organization?
Diversity of funding is our greatest need. My predecessor worked incredibly hard to build a network of individual donors, people who have given generously for over 20 years. I’d love to tap into a younger donor base to help them understand the importance of adult education—many young adults today have never met anyone who can’t read; there’s a great need here and to engage younger donors is a significant goal of the organization.
Can you share a memorable impact story?
I have a great story to share. It is one of persistence and working hard towards a goal. In 2005, Lana emigrated from China to Boston. While educated in China and able to read and write a little, she spoke no English at all and found the language very difficult. Lana enrolled in an English language program that received First Literacy funding and rapidly progressed until she knew enough English to take the high-school equivalency exam. She passed with flying colors and then was ready to start college with our help.
She received a First Literacy Scholarship in 2006 to support her goal of becoming a dentist, just like her mother in China. She took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts to practice her English (where she happened to meet her husband, who was one of her customers). Fast forward ten years – Lana received her Associates degree from Bunker Hill Community College, her Bachelor’s degree from University of Massachusetts, Boston, and is now enrolled in Tufts Dental School.
Lana has spoken at several First Literacy events and always shares with the audience a poem that has given her strength during her long educational journey:
Only as high as I reach can I grow;
Only as deep as I look can I see;
Only as much as I dream can I be.
What does success look like?
We’d love to go out of business because every adult has the education they need to be successful. Until then, however, success is having a city in which adults who want to learn can do so without any barriers or obstacles, and having continued funding to support adults in their educational journey through our programs and initiatives.
How can the community get involved?
Donations are always needed. We’re currently creating a mentoring program that will include a young professional component, which will provide an opportunity to work directly with adults in our community (stay tuned for more information – our goal is to launch in the Fall). Additionally, many of Boston’s adult education programs are always looking for help and we can make recommendations. Finally, as a business or individual, you can get involved with our annual Corporate Spelling Bee and Mini-Bees.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love my job—I enjoy the opportunity to help serve an under-the-radar population in our society. Many of our adult learners have transitioned from community college to a four-year university; it’s incredibly rewarding when they come back and share their story with us. When I joined the organization in 2010 and started meeting with potential grant funders, I was surprised to learn that many didn’t fund programs that served the adult population. Since then, I’ve seen growth in this area and am excited for the future of the organization.
Keeping with the theme of my blog, what’s your favorite local outdoor or adventure spot?
My husband and I love to kayak—our favorite weekend getaway is the Asabet River, located in Concord, about 20 miles west of Boston. When we have more time, Cape Cod is always a favorite retreat.
A special thanks to the Small Change Runner who donated to First Literacy as part of running the 2015 Boston Marathon. Good luck to everyone running next Monday in the 120th Boston Marathon.
Where’s your next race or adventure? I encourage you to leave behind a little Small Change in your destination city. The organization you select may be the next Spotlight.