Adult Literacy Action Grants

We’re thrilled to announce almost $60,000 in grants to support 12 projects focused on building adult literacy in a variety of Cleveland neighborhoods.

The Neighbor Up Adult Literacy Action Grants Committee composed of 7 community members with a variety of experience and passion for adult literacy made the funding decisions. A staff member from the Literacy Cooperative also joined the team. Committee members, who volunteered their time, included a former adult tutor, a Seeds of Literacy graduate, and someone who learned English as a second language. Grants of up to $5,000 each were available to support action projects in the field of adult literacy.

Funded projects are listed below with summaries from the grant applications included:

  1. Adult Literacy Learners and Educators Network : The overall goal of the project is to bring adult literacy learners and adult literacy educators together in a common space, to co-create a series of networking events and grassroots projects that depend on the needs, guidance, knowledge, social capital, and expertise of adult learners as much as they depend on the education, expertise, and social capital of educators.
  2. Capturing Our Stories: Our team realized that it takes courage for an adult to go back to school, so we asked ourselves: What if we created Art with adult learners to change the narrative about adult learners? Ten Adult Learners who want to and are willing to improve their word power and reading skills will use Handmade Journals to record their journey. Each week participants will identify 10 words beginning with each letter of the alphabet, starting with the Letter A. The words identified can be words they already know or words they have not been exposed to. Participants will weekly create one piece of art inspired by at least one of the words from their weekly word list. No artistic skills are required. Participants may even use an online image or something from a book or magazine.
  3. Comics at the Corner: Comics at the Corner addresses low literacy by putting comics featuring Black and POC characters in the hands of as many residents as possible. We focus our efforts primarily in Buckeye-Shaker, Mt. Pleasant, and Woodland Hills. Our goal is simple: marry our love for comics and reading with the need to put something that people will want to read in the hands of as many neighbors and residents as possible.
  4. Green Movement Glenville: A book club focused on showing the rich history of African and indigenous Americans that hopes to create a “culture of reading,” encourage more reading and maybe get people to the point where they are willing to say “I’d like to read more.”
  5. Learners’ Empowerment Project : The Learners’ Empowerment Project is a mutual support project that will involve up to ten adult literacy learners and two facilitators. The facilitators will be trained by the Aha!Process in the Getting Ahead / Bridges out of Poverty program. This program puts learners around the table to discuss poverty, their own situations, resources needed to be successful, and where they’re lacking. It lets them investigate their own situations, and come up with solutions.
  6. Literacy Matters: Literacy Matters is dedicated to the celebration of literacy through creative writing workshops, community-based readings and zine publications. In an effort to create and sustain a culture of reading, writing and storytelling, the vision of this initiative is to establish a consortium that provides literary and literacy-based resources, workshop gatherings and events that will support a culture of literacy.
  7. Word Pool: Our mission is to use art to make literacy and learning less intimidating, inspire adult learners to want to learn more, and encourage self learning. We will launch an art project called a Word Pool. The goals are to establish a culture of reading and writing within our participants, develop public art, inspire participants to sign up for GED class as well as join the Neighbor Up Network, and to organize our cohort around literacy activism.
  8. Mind Over Matter: To improve literacy in the Collinwood community, we will partner with the Cleveland Public Library to have a virtual book club. This idea will be covid safe and fun.
  9. Put to Good Use: An English language learning group for residents 50 years of age and older who live in AsiaTown. Learners will receive a stipend for completing the course if they have good attendance. We will also plan celebrations to help build community between these adult learners.
  10. The City Social Club: A digital newspaper and book club focused on community information and learning about community engagement for millennials focused on the southeast side.
  11. The LIFE Ministry Life Skills Program: Reading and writing skills development through individual and group education sessions that will be held 2x per month from 10-12pm, Saturdays.
  12. Wounded Healer Book Project: This project will encourage adults to not only engage in reading but to participate in a self-published book which will highlight their personal stories of overcoming trauma. Our hope is that this will encourage people to continue on the journey of sharing their stories through, reading and writing. In doing so, hopefully will also improve literacy.

We’ve been honored to spend the past year working in community with people dedicated to improving literacy in our city. Collaborating across neighborhoods and organizations, we hosted an Adult Literacy Innovation Team in 2020. 

Folks worked in small groups and focused on different topic areas to test out new ways to make Cleveland a city where we all have the power to read. Everyone on the team brought so much passion and commitment to thinking and acting in new ways when it comes to improving adult literacy in our city.

We want to thank all the team members for dedicating themselves to the work!

Many of us have seen the statistic: 66 percent of Cleveland adults are low literate, and struggle to read bus schedules, medicine bottles and other everyday information. One woman working to improve adult literacy in Cleveland compared reading to breathing – those of us who can read don’t really think about it, but it is reading that sustains us and connects us to information, jobs and other opportunities. For those of us who can not read, much is out of reach.

Luckily, there is a shared desire among grassroots leaders and others working with adult literacy to connect and strengthen efforts – all with the goal of improving life in our city.

We used the emerging social science of Community Network Building (on which Neighbor Up is based) to weave together diverse community stakeholders for mutual support and action.

Adult Literacy Innovation Team members

  • Amy Wu is a Neighbor Up member who is committed to connecting people and has worked as a tutor with adult students.
  • Bonnie Entler is with Seeds of Literacy, a nonprofit organization that provides free GED®, and HiSET® preparation and basic education to adults in the Cleveland area.
  • Brittinie “BJ” Jermon is a Neighbor Up member with a passion for inspiring students, who worked with Freedom Schools and now works at Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
  • Carlos Alvarado teaches adult learners at Esperanza, a nonprofit with the mission of improving the academic achievement of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland by supporting students to graduate high school and promoting post-secondary educational attainment.
  • Carmine Stewart is dedicated to thinking about improving adult literacy in new ways. She works at Seeds of Literacy.
  • Curtis Freed is Neighbor Up Action Grant recipient who thinks innovatively about solving community issues and received a GED® while incarcerated.
  • Curtis “Skip” Hill is a Neighbor Up Action Grant recipient who mentors young men helping them stay in school and graduate.
  • Cynthia Foster is a grandparent involved in improving literacy in Slavic Village.
  • Donnell Collins is a John Hay High School and John Carroll University graduate who has worked with Freedom Schools.
  • Gwen Garth is an artist and Neighbor Up member, who was trained as a literacy tutor and taught incarcerated adults to read.
  • Holly Roe is a Neighbor Up Action Grant recipient whose project The LD Edge Network is the only nonprofit in Cleveland that helps adults get diagnosed with learning disabilities.
  • Jennifer Adjua Cline is a poet who works with creative writing and literacy.
  • Mahogani Graves works with P-16 in Slavic Village, a network of people who believe youth development is a direct path to healthy, safe communities for everyone.
  • Mansa L. Bey believes in the power of words to make change. He teaches creative writing and personal narrative.
  • Marva Walton is a parent who is involved with P-16 in Slavic Village.
  • Rhonda Crowder is a journalist and literacy advocate who created Hough Reads, A Little Free Library Neighborhood initiative that hosts neighborhood literacy-based events in Hough.
  • Sharon Jefferson is the branch manager at the Glenville branch of Cleveland Public Library.
  • Terry Echols is the assistant director of Adult Education Services at the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
  • Toni Johnson works at the Educational Opportunity Center at Tri-C, and is a member of the Literacy Cooperative’s Learning Network.
  • Tonya Briggs is the library branch manager at the Addison branch of Cleveland Public Library.

We loved the energy among the leaders we met who are working to strengthen literacy in our city!

Neighbor Up Adult Literacy Action Grants Committee

A volunteer group that reviewed applications starting November 30, 2020 and made funding decisions.

  • Anne Morrison, retired Kent State University professor who studied the Cuba Literacy Campaign
  • Dan McLaughlin, former adult literacy tutor
  • Jan Thrope, founder of InnerVisions of Cleveland, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting catalysts for change with resources they need to help their community projects flourish
  • Margaret Bernstein, director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC Channel 3 and a champion of literacy
  • Margo Hudson, an adult literacy tutor nationally-recognized for her work
  • Xinyuan Cui, the AsiaTown Community Organizer at MidTown Cleveland with experience supporting grassroots community work

Laureen Atkins with the Literacy Cooperative also reviewed applications to determine which projects to co-fund. Supporting the committee were Neighbor Up members Lila Mills and Lisa-Jean Sylvia.

Have questions about Neighbor Up and literacy?

Reach out to Lila or Lisa-Jean or call or text 216-229-8769.

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