Literacy is one of the silent issues in our community. You can't see it. You don't necessarily know that folks might be struggling with it. But many adults struggle with it and are apprehensive to ask for help. The education system is complex, and if an adult had a hard time in school or experienced negative circumstances in their previous education, re-engaging in academic studies may be a tough idea to embrace.
Literacy Services of Wisconsin is an adult education organization that provides reading and numeracy for adults who may be struggling with low-literacy. They provide GED and HSED programming for those who need to earn a high school credential as well as provide English language classes for immigrants and refugees.
Throughout Wisconsin, Literacy Services has over eight locations, with one centered in Downtown Waukesha.
“We don't believe that we should have one central location,” explained Holly McCoy, Executive Director at Literacy Services of Wisconsin. “We really embrace the fact that our work should be meeting folks where they're at, not only academically, but physically as well.”
Low-literacy in Milwaukee and Waukesha affects more adults than you may think, with 25% of Milwaukee County adults and 8% of Waukesha County adults reading at or below a third-grade level. When an adult walks through the doors of Literacy Services, the staff ensures that they are met with a friendly, inviting space that makes students feel welcome. Many members of the staff have lived experiences, have traveled, or speak various languages. They are there not only to educate, but also to guide.
“I just want people to really think about adult literacy and understand that it's an important piece of workforce development, family literacy, and the success of so many things that everyone wants to see our community achieve,” Holly said.
Partnering with United Way has allowed Literacy Services to embrace and expand their support for their students. With technology support, students can do their studies at home if they want, instead of accessing a computer lab. Funding also allows students to have one-on-one tutoring sessions, to ensure that their needs are met.
“United Way is an incredible partner,” Holly said. “When I think about United Way, I think about just the partnership and the support that they provide us overall, not to mention [many of] our partners that we work with are United Way partners as well. To me, it feels very cyclical. It feels like we're connecting the dots and I feel like United Way is instrumental in creating community and ensuring that we're all doing the work that we should be doing, united.”
When you give to United Way, you’re changing the life of an adult in our community who needs educational and literacy services. Holly and the staff at Literacy Services of Wisconsin remind us that to live better, we must Live United.