State aid helps literacy groups change lives

Despite challenges our state faces with educational access, dozens of programs like ours work hard each day to improve literacy rates in communities across New Mexico, helping students dream, learn and achieve in spite of enormous obstacles they face.

As professionals in this field, we are glad to see the recent focus on literacy issues but want to provide a reminder that although the numbers may paint a dismal picture, there is much more to the story of adult literacy, and adult literacy learners are much more than mere data points. They are successful business owners, loving parents and contributing community members.

Despite logistical barriers and societal stigma, these individuals seek out opportunities to develop literacy skills in pursuit of personal, academic and professional aspirations.

Adult literacy programs strive to meet student needs, supporting them toward fuller and more empowered lives, despite the inequitable experiences many have previously faced. Serving adult learners from diverse backgrounds is critical to ensuring equitable service delivery, and so the N.M. Higher Education Department’s decision to move to a transparent and competitive process has allowed services to continue and expanded them.

Grantees include a diverse group of organizations helping adult learners across rural and urban communities, providing nearly 10,000 New Mexicans with services from one-on-one tutoring to family literacy programs impacting multiple generations.

At ReadWest Inc., state funding has been key in enabling us to meet the needs of west Albuquerque’s culturally and linguistically diverse community, especially during the pandemic. Just one year ago, our program had a small staff and a long waiting list of students seeking services. ReadWest serves up to 400 students at a time, and thanks to funding from NMHED, we have re-imagined our services to include resources like laptops, tablets and Zoom licenses to support our teachers and students. We are now able to serve even more students from diverse backgrounds and regions.

State funding has also opened exciting new avenues for adult literacy learning at UNM-Taos’ Adult Language and Literacy Program. We have made transformative changes that provide students with a more comprehensive range of literacy learning opportunities that work together in strategic ways. Not only do we now offer small group literacy classes in addition to one-on-one tutoring, but we created a special library on campus for emergent adult readers, where adult learners have access to an array of engaging texts written at an appropriate level that also reflects their interests and experiences.

Both programs also support those in rural areas and ensure continuation of services. This year, we awarded over $125,000 to programs including the Deming Literacy Program, Hidalgo County Literacy Program, Literacy Link Leamos, Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe, Engaging Latino Communities for Education, Literacy Volunteers of Socorro County and Read, “Write” in Torrance County.

Alongside these and other grantees, we have a consortium that aims to re-imagine adult education in the 21st century, with a focus on access, equity and inclusion, and create ongoing cross-regional collaboration.

In the coming year, the consortium will create a professional development kit that will serve as a resource for any adult literacy program seeking to deliver high-quality programming.

Receiving state funding and working in partnership with the HED has allowed us to expand and improve services and be better recognized for our impactful work by the public and legislators. We look forward to seeing continued positive outcomes we can achieve together in the years ahead.

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