Los Angeles County has a total population of 9,948,081 – larger than the population of 42 of the nation’s states. 33% of the county population lacks basic literacy skills, including the ability to read and write. According to Education Week’s annual Quality Counts 2015 report, California received a D+ on the state’s report card, which is based on school finance, K-12 achievement, and “chances of success,” measuring parents’ education levels, attendance in preschool, and family income.
Founded in 1990, Project Literacy is a UCLA community service organization dedicated to improving literacy rates in the Los Angeles region through one-on-one tutoring. Six days a week, at seven unique sites in Watts, Mar Vista, Vernon, and Baldwin Hills, tutors from Project Literacy work one-on-one with children and adults alike to reduce illiteracy rates in the Los Angeles community.
Through tutoring, the organization’s mission is to not only enrich the education of children and adults, but to act as positive role models and establish meaningful ties with families in the program.
Project Literacy currently has 150 student volunteers, 200 adult and child learners, and 15 directors who hold specific positions in one of three committees: education, programs/publicity, and logistics. Through these committees each director is able to split the responsibility in the preparation of curriculum and bi-weekly seminars or classes; events regarding retention, recruitment, fundraising, and field trips; and project finance, transportation, and room bookings.
Co-Executive Director Jacqueline Adams said the most significant accomplishment of the current director board has been the creation of a Recommended Book List, composed of relevant and acclaimed novels, short stories and poems, and book summaries, all organized by grade level. The list is intended to help learners choose books of interest that are at their expected reading level, and to further engage parents in their child’s education. Adams states that intensive research went into the list to select books that are both ethically and academically challenging, in the hopes of inspiring learners to question the world around them.
On the impact the organization has made, Co-Executive Director Allie Hovsepian states, “I have seen our learners become more creative. With the guidance and support of one-on-one tutors, the learners feel more confident to express their ideas in a group setting. The relationships that our tutors create with our learners allow the learners to feel more comfortable communicating their struggles in school and thus allow us to be more integral in their success in school.”
In the future, the organization wishes to expand the availability of resources for their service recipients and tutors to help learners develop sustainable learning habits, increase the distribution of their family newsletter with an additional focus on health and nutrition, and further incorporate the families of the learners to make them feel more involved in their child’s education.
“Our learners are definitely what motivate me to go to site each week. From refusing to sit down at site a year ago, to now completing a full packet of curriculum, my learner Nicholas is now a more confident, focused, and driven individual. I believe Project Literacy has played a large role in creating this change,” said Adams.
For the impact Project Literacy has made on Los Angeles community, the UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award Project Literacy with the Winter 2016 Mongelli Award for Excellence and Civic Engagement.