Student Ambassadors visit the Arizona State Legislature

On February 11, a group of Student Ambassadors from Literacy Volunteers of Tucson (LVT) and Pima College Adult Education (PCAE) spent a day touring the Capitol, and meeting with their elected officials.  These Student Ambassadors spoke on behalf of the over one million adults in Arizona who need adult basic education programming.  The trip took place during Arizona Adult Literacy Week, an annual, statewide event celebrating adult basic education and lifelong learning in Arizona communities.

State funding is critical for most adult education programs in the state.  This funding was discontinued after FY2010 and is currently not included in either the Governor’s budget or the Legislators’ budget.  Monday’s visit was an important opportunity to discuss this critical issue with lawmakers, on behalf of Literacy Connects’ partners (such as PCAE) who rely on such funding.

In the office of Senator Steve Farley (D), LVT student ambassadors Rafael Perez, Chris Vega, Uwe Keilitz, Marty Calanche, and Elena Brown, shared their personal stories.  Elena explained that “Adult education is more than learning to read, write and speak English; it is also learning about the culture; and when you become part of the culture, you can contribute to the prosperity of the country.”  Senator Farley was impressed with the research that Elena had conducted in preparation for meeting with him, and described some of his creative proposals for restoring funding to adult education.

 

Edie Lantz Leppert, a co-director of the LVT program at Literacy Connects, said “What’s exciting about this day is having the students come here to engage with their legislators and realize first-hand that it is possible to talk to their representatives about issues that the students care about.” 

In addition to meetings in the House and Senate buildings, students also travelled to the Rio Salado College Conference Center to attend the 2013 Arizona Adult Literacy Week Awards Ceremony.  There, the talents and abilities of adult learners statewide were showcased and celebrated as stories and projects from 1100 students from all over Arizona were highlighted by a panel of judges, and PCAE student, Mari Guillen was a winner in the digital story category.  The program included an entertaining song and dance performance (Gangnam style!) by immigrant students called “I Love My English Class”.

 

On a more serious note, speakers expressed gratitude for the over 2 million hours that were logged last year by adult education instructors, and praised those adult students who are parents, because they are setting an extremely important example for their children.  It was also noted that Arizona is 4th highest in the nation in terms of quality adult education and performance in educational gains.

 

Literacy Connects is proud of all of the adult learners who participate in LVT’s two programs – English Language Acquisition for Adults and Basic Literacy – and of the efforts of the student ambassadors who help to increase awareness about the importance of literacy to individuals and to society as a whole.  If you also believe in the power of adult literacy as a part of the education continuum, get involved!

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