Drew Dunlavy is board president of The Literacy Alliance.
As summer turns to fall, most families with school-age children begin back-to-school preparations: books, supplies, new schedules and more as the academic year gets underway. This annual tradition is usually associated with children who attend school to learn new subjects and master concepts that will prepare them for the future.
But not everyone fits this model. While Allen County is fortunate to have excellent academic options from preschool through college and beyond, there are 30,000 adults without a high school degree or basic English proficiency skills; only 4% are enrolled in a literacy program. These adults are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, impoverished or incarcerated, which can result in community challenges such as an increased crime rate and decreased employment, self-sufficiency and dignity.
Consider these statistics:
• One in nine adults in northeast Indiana does not have a high school diploma or equivalent.
• Adults without a high school diploma are twice as likely to live in poverty.
• Adults without a high school diploma earn 42% less than adults with a diploma.
• 12% of adults in Allen County live in poverty.
• 43% of those in poverty don't have a high school diploma.
• 75% of inmates in Indiana don't have a high school diploma.
• 70,000 residents of northeast Indiana don't have a high school diploma; they are among 500,000 such Indiana residents.
If you are reading this, you are one of the lucky ones. Many thousands of adults in our community struggle to read and comprehend the basic English necessary to fill out a job application, fill out forms for their children's school or medical records, or follow basic instructions. Literacy is key to many issues facing our community. When you improve literacy, you affect many areas: employment, public safety, health care and our economy.
The Literacy Alliance works with adults to improve skills in a variety of ways: obtain a high school equivalency diploma, improve English-language efficiency, and obtain job-training and skills certification. When individuals succeed in these areas, area employers benefit by having more qualified applicants for their open jobs.
Additionally, improving adult literacy affects family literacy. Parents who struggle with reading often find that their child will struggle as well. The Literacy Alliance works to break this cycle by providing free adult literacy services in seven locations in Allen, Adams and Wells counties and collaborating with other organizations to address these issues.
The Literacy Alliance strives to end illiteracy by teaching adults through learning centers, literacy programs, and tutoring services that empower individuals to succeed at work, at home and in the community. The alliance takes an individualized approach to its teaching, knowing that adults come with experiences and histories unique to them. Since 1988, The Literacy Alliance has helped more than 15,000 adults improve the skills they need to work, live and raise their families. This includes the 2,000 adults who received their high school equivalency diploma after studying with us.
How can you help?
• Recommend The Literacy Alliance to a potential student who needs assistance to obtain basic literacy or English proficiency skills, high school equivalency test preparation or job skills certification.
• Become a volunteer.
• Make a financial gift.
• If you are an employer struggling to fill jobs that require a basic high school education, refer your employees or potential applicants to us so they can receive free services that can help them obtain employment with you or move up to a higher work classification. Contact us to learn how we can bring a high school equivalency, English Speakers of Other Languages or skills certification class to your organization or place of business.