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The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Initiative: Tri-C partner spotlight

At The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Summit in May 2019, we highlighted best practices in the two-generation approach to learning.

2Gen approaches build family wellbeing by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and adults in their lives together. Learn more about our 2Gen Initiative.

During the Summit, The Literacy Cooperative presented a 2Gen Call to Action that focuses on four key imperatives: involving parents and family members as equals in the planning process, expanding interagency knowledge among service partners, implementing referral strategies and shared databases across all organizations, and using these methods to incubate a 2Gen programming pilot to track results, scalability and sustainability.

One of the programs that exemplifies the goals of a 2Gen Approach is Cuyahoga Community College’s Saturday Family Academy (SFA), a free, non-credit course designed to promote education, empowerment and success to the entire family.

“The vision was to create an innovative model to educate and inspire multiple generations of a family, and take the whole family to the next level,” said Kenneth Hale, founder and former director of Saturday Family Academy. “We want to change the trajectory for some of these folks.”

Every Saturday morning families attend age-specific classes, which are different each year. After the individual sessions, all students gather to share what they learned and eat a meal together. 

“It’s a learning community at Tri-C that doesn’t cost any money for the families, and the whole family can benefit,” Hale said. “It’s really been awesome.”

One of those families is the Thomas Family. Parents Duane and Theresa, with children Tamara, Sherelle, and Joseph, attended SFA during the Fall 2016 and the Spring 2017 semesters. Originally, they went to support dad Duane to get more comfortable with the college environment before going back to school – but soon found it beneficial for all. 

Theresa and Duane took wellness and financial literacy classes together; Tamara prepared for college with ACT courses – something that her CMSD school didn’t offer; Sherelle and Joseph played chess and solved math problems to build critical reasoning skills. 

Duane and Theresa said during their financial literacy class, they learned how to keep track of their money much more and expanded their knowledge on banking. Fun games weren’t just for the children, either – the financial instructor had his session set up like a game of Jeopardy.

Tamara not only prepped for the ACT but also gained skills both in and outside of the classroom that prepared her for her future, such as a connection to an internship and professional development made through the Saturday Family Academy.

She’s now a sophomore at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Her dad is also a sophomore, soon to earn his Associates degree from Cleveland State University. He wants to be a counselor, helping other students with their education.

“Being able to walk around that campus, I was able to see other people like me,” Duane said. “I was like, wow – it really doesn’t matter your age. Anyone can finish school.”

Sherelle is attending Tri-C as an 11th grader this year as part of her high school curriculum. Because of this experience with her family, she said she feels totally comfortable on campus.

The Thomas family said being able to share in their education as a family brought them closer together.

“You’re not just bossing around and prioritizing education for your children, but you’re showing them that you’re dedicated to education as well,” Theresa said. “It really put an emphasis on that.”

Myra Stone is one of the teachers at the academy. She taught at Rhodes High School for years. Now retired, she comes back every year to help kids.

“When you’re teaching high school, you see a lot of kids – intelligent kids – who just have some problems they’re working through,” she said. 

But SFA is different than school.

“I do hip-hop with the kids, drama, and poetry,” Myra said. “Going into this I was aiming for laughter. A lot of these kids come to school with baggage, and that makes it hard to learn. But these small groups are a unique opportunity to engage more with the kids.”

With further partnerships with institutions and programs such as SFA, Greater Cleveland can continue to move toward operating under a 2Gen model to benefit families more effectively.

The fourth year of Saturday Family Academy begun September 21st at Tri-C’s Metro Campus and continues the next five consecutive Saturdays.

Register with this form, and email to Mikki.McDonough@tri-c.edu or bring your completed form to SFA with you.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!

In America, there are 36 million adults who cannot read or write at the most basic level. More than 60 million adults lack the basic math skills necessary to work a cash register or understand a bus schedule. Unfortunately, the federal funds budgeted only reaches 1.5 million. Adult Education is an issue that needs to be focused on now.

Next week (September 26 – October 1) is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. It is a week to raise awareness about the need and value of adult education and family literacy. This is an opportunity to elevate adult education and family literacy nationwide with policymakers, the media and the community.

The effect that an increase in adult education can have on a community is clear. Adult education gives the low literate and those without basic math skills a chance to find a job, launch a career, educate their own children and live healthier lives. The funding for adult education is a great return on investment; for every dollar invested in those services, a community gets back $60 in decreased welfare costs, tax revenue, and economic activity. It is clear that an increased awareness about the overwhelmingly positive impact of adult education services is needed.

Adult education does not only help low-literate adult to succeed and improve their lives but it also helps their children, families and communities. Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading level themselves. They are more likely to get poor grades, display behavior problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years or drop out. By working to increase awareness about the importance of adult education we can put a stop to this cycle.

Communities tend to overlook low-literate adults because their focus is primarily on children. By showing the cascading effect low-literacy in adults has on children and in consequence the community, you help raise attention and prompt action. Showing your community the positive effect increased adult education has on children as well as adults you are able to show your community that supporting adult education is crucial to building a strong and resilient community.

Next week is your chance to get involved. There are a number of ways you can bring attention to this important issue. Do you work with adult learners who have stories of success that you think others need to hear? Do you work for an adult education services agency that has helped change a number of lives? If so this would be a perfect time to share your students’ stories or your agency’s story. Nothing helps spark action more than hearing first-hand how the services have helped someone change their lives.

You can share the stories with our local newspapers, radio stations or news outlets. Develop a pitch and send it out; reporters love to promote individual stories.

Get the attention of local and state officials. Next week you can work with your students on writing letters sharing their stories with their local and state representatives asking for them to ensure that adult education is one of their top priorities.  (Find out how to contact your officials and representatives here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials). These official’s see facts and figures all the time, putting a face and story to these numbers can help drive home the point of how important adult education is and how it can help citizens succeed and a community thrive.  More importantly, your students experience civic engagement and use their writing skills to help themselves and others.

Make our community aware of the issue at hand by writing an op-ed piece. Tell our community why adult education is important, explain how it effects not only adults but children as well, share stories and develop the case for why it needs increased resources and support. A well written piece can spark not only interest but action in the reader.

Another important way to participate in Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is by sharing facts and statistics. Many people are not aware of the issue and don’t understand why funding and resources are needed. Many don’t understand that low literacy skills are directly linked to inequality, high rates of unemployment, lower income and poor health or that adults from poorly educated families are 10 times more likely to have low skills. Most do not know that a mother’s reading level is the greatest determinant to her child’s academic success. COABE and ProLiteracy’s websites have a number of statistics that you can share via your social media or through an email fact sheet. People cannot help increase awareness and thus increase resources and support if they do not understand the problem. You can help enlighten your followers and raise your community’s consciousness about the issue.

Here are some sample tweets you could use next week, be sure to include #AEFLWeek:

Join us for #AEFLWeek (Sept. 26 – Oct. 1) and help raise awareness about the importance of adult education and family literacy.

            230 billion dollars a year in health costs is linked to low adult literacy #AEFLWeek

            36 million adults cannot read at the most basic level but federal funds only reach 1.5 million of these adults #AEFLWeek

Children of parents with low literacy have a 72% chance of being in the lowest reading level themselves #AEFLWeek.

            Literacy benefits adults: Higher salaries, better job opportunities, higher savings & improved working conditions. #AEFLWeek.

            435,000 Cuyahoga County adults read at or below a seventh grade level #AEFLWeek       

            2/3 of Cleveland children are not ready for kindergarten when they enter school. #AEFLWeek

            Neighborhoods like Hough, Central & Kinsman have functional illiteracy rates as high as 95% #AEFLWeek

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is a week to raise awareness in order too leverage resources to support access to basic education for the millions of adults who need it. Next week is a chance for you to raise your voice and to help adult education get the attention and thus the support and resources it needs and deserves.

COABE and ProLiteracy’s websites have some great toolkits and resources to help you to make the most of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Also be sure to use #AEFLWeek to connect with a number of agencies and supporters throughout the country and to see how others are celebrating this important week.