It is with very mixed emotions that I announce my decision to retire in January 2021. I have loved my work as a literacy champion here in Tucson, but the truth is I am well into my “golden years,” and it is time to pass on the reins of leadership. I will be staying in Tucson and plan to stay active in the community, albeit at a much slower pace. The board of Literacy Connects is working the succession plan that we developed several years ago. I have every confidence that a new Executive Director will be found who will lead the organization to an even stronger position of service and strength than it is at today.
Literacy Connects has been my vision, my passion – my baby – for almost 18 years now. I started working with just adult literacy, but as I worked with other literacy programs around town, the idea for Literacy Connects slowly emerged.
My entire career has been devoted to providing the tools people need to live into their full potential. I started, at Westside Ecumenical Ministries in Cleveland Ohio, helping welfare recipients build community and develop individualized strategies to increase their income. Then, I helped found New Life Community, also in Cleveland. At New Life, we provided rent-free apartments for homeless families while they took our life skills and job classes. Our residents left us after 4 months with a job and enough saved for the first month’s rent and security deposit on their own home. In both of these organizations, I saw the lack of literacy skills as a key contributor to people staying stuck or moving forward.
When I started with the adult literacy programs here in Tucson, I was thrilled to be working on an issue at the root of underemployment and cyclical poverty. I was privileged to see the world open up for people as they developed their literacy skills. However, I quickly learned that there is no one age group on which to focus literacy services. I became convinced that the best way to move the needle on literacy levels in our community was to aim at the entire age continuum. Literacy Connects developed as a way to do just that.
We had a mere shadow of the infrastructure needed to be a healthy and strong organization. Today, we have almost fully built our infrastructure. Each of Literacy Connects’ programs has strengthened and grown; and we collaborate wherever we can. Besides buying and renovating a building, we have created a learning hub for the Amphi Neighborhood, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity Tucson and the International Rescue Committee.
Most importantly, approximately 50,000 children and adults increase their literacy skills each year through Literacy Connects’ high quality programs. All of our programs are student-centered, strengths-based, and work from a growth mindset. We understand that skills alone will not move students forward. Attitudinal and behavioral changes are equally important. Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to moving students from “I can’t” to “I’ll try” to “I can”!
I have worked from these same beliefs and approaches to grow and mature Literacy Connects over the last 9 years. Failure was never an option. “Yes we can” was always my prevailing attitude. And, thanks to an amazing, dedicated, and highly-skilled staff and board as well as an ever-growing community of volunteers and donors, we have created an organization that is one of the most respected and trusted non-profits in Tucson. To look at where we started and to look at where we are today, literally gives me goosebumps!
It has been my honor and joy to do this work over the last 18 years. I will miss all of the wonderful people that I have been privileged to get to know and work with here at Literacy Connects and all over greater Tucson. I am proud to leave the legacy of a strong literacy organization that is poised to keep growing and benefiting our community for many decades to come. I leave knowing that Literacy Connects is in good hands – yours! For Literacy Connects always has, and always will, belong to our community.