Thirty years ago, Literacy KC began as a dream and grew out of a passion to help people. A small group of volunteers perceived a need in the community and created a tiny organization to provide literacy tutoring for adults. What began in the basement of a church has blossomed into close to a $1 million organization today, but the path was not easy.
A few years ago, the Literacy KC staff and board underwent a comprehensive strategic planning process that resulted in two major goals:
- to become a more efficient and effective provider of adult literacy services
- to leverage community connections to better meet the need.
In many ways, our immense progress toward the realization of these goals has resulted in a reinvention, and a more than doubling of size, of our organization. Of the changes made, perhaps the most significant was the transformation of our instruction from a one-on-one model to a classroom-based model. This change, coupled with an increased community partner collaborative focus, commitment to research and evidence-based programs, and a diversification of student-centered services, has helped to bring Literacy KC to the 21st century.
The primary reason for these changes involves the advancements in the skills needed to be a fully integrated member of society. The definition of adult literacy today is different than it was 30 years ago when Literacy KC began. What originally primarily meant the ability to read and write has expanded to include increased focuses on math skills, health and financial literacy, and digital skills.
With over 225,000 adults in the Kansas City metropolitan area labeled as functionally illiterate, it is important for organizations like Literacy KC to extend valuable services to this community. How is a low-literate parent supposed to give their child the proper dosage of medication if they are unable to read the prescription? How can a low-literate adult apply to a job that only offers an application online if they don’t have the digital skills to use a computer?
Literacy KC is revolutionizing the way adult literacy education is delivered. Now, qualified instructors lead classes supported by trained volunteer tutors. Classes cover relevant, level-appropriate curriculum and are student-centered, as instructors and tutors work to help them meet their academic and personal goals. Literacy KC has extended class offerings beyond our office, with classes at partner sites that spread across the Kansas City metropolitan area. Key collaborative partnerships with the Kansas City Public Library & Mid-Continent Public Library systems have allowed us to launch Career Online High School, a program that allows students to earn an accredited high school diploma online. Literacy KC has a computer lab on site that is open to the public during business hours and used for digital skills instruction. Google Fiber & The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) have teamed up to install a full-time Digital Inclusion Fellow at Literacy KC, whose entire focus is to increase digital skills and training into all aspects of our programming.
The steady improvement of services together with entrepreneurial programs that embrace a community literacy approach have helped to maximize organizational efficiency. Literacy KC has positioned itself as a leader in adult education services and created a community safe space for those in need to improve their skills.
To learn more about Literacy KC, visit their website or any of the following social channels: