Tutor Carol Kennedy speaks at LCUP’s 30th Anniversary celebration

On February 17, LCUP celebrated its 30th Anniversary of Changing Lives Through Literacy at the Dunedin Public Library.  The well-attended event included the organization’s annual meeting with speakers Pat Bauer, President, Library Director Phyllis Gorshe,  Jan Demers and Carol Kennedy.  Both Jan and Carol are members of the LCUP Board of Directors, tutors and Conversation Class leaders and spoke about their experiences in literacy.  Learner Dorotea Chavez spoke about the difference learning English has made in her life.

City Commissioner Deborah Kynes presented a proclamation from the City of Dunedin in recognition of the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas’ 30th Anniversary.  Read the proclamation here.

The following history of LCUP was presented by President Pat Bauer:

                 A History of the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas, 1988- 2018

The Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas grew out of increased need for adult literacy services in north county due to population growth and demographic changes in the 1980s. The council was formed by a group of dedicated citizens who were originally affiliated with the St. Petersburg Literacy Council and saw the need to incorporate the north county program. Our articles of incorporation are dated February 2, 1988.

After about a dozen years operating out of the car trunks of stalwart members, we found our first real home in 1999, when Bea Donis, one of our founders, approached the Director of Dunedin Public Library about offering a small space for an office. Not only did we gain a home for our collection of books, but we also gained space for board meetings and tutor training sessions and rooms for tutoring. Along with space came the in-kind services made available through the library, including phone and internet access. With a renovation of the library in the early 2000’s our corporate office moved to a more visible location next to the meeting rooms, advantageous for recruitment of tutors and students.

Now all one must do is look for the big Neon sign that says READ to find LCUP’s home.
When it became apparent that attracting volunteer tutors was difficult due to the tutor-training requirements that had long been in place, the LCUP Board of Directors decided to adopt a new training model. In spring of 2009 the Florida Literacy Coalition held its annual conference at the Belleview Biltmore in Clearwater. Several board members attended the conference and chose the Just-In-Time model for tutor training that requires 6 hours of orientation in order to begin working with an adult learner. This research-based model, when combined with in-service opportunities, has proven to be effective in preparing tutors to teach using a learner-centered approach.

In 2010 computer-assisted learning became an important instructional focus as LCUP added a subscription for a web-based phonics program and training for tutors and students in accessing the materials. Students with internet access began using home computers to log into their accounts to continue their learning outside of tutoring sessions. Those without internet access were encouraged to obtain library cards in order to use library computers. Encouraging library use became an important instructional strategy, as the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative began subscribing to language learning web-based programs. Redesigning the LCUP web page facilitated referring students and tutors to such resources and proved to be an effective means to communicate LCUP’s mission to the community and seek continued support from literacy partners.

In 2009 we recognized LCUP’s first Volunteer of the Year, Opal Hamm. The following year we began the tradition of having a Volunteer Appreciation breakfast on Honeymoon Island to honor the outstanding volunteer and recognize the winner of a student essay contest. The essay contest, now called “Express Yourself,” gives students an opportunity to show off their reading, writing and speaking skills each fall. The essays are then submitted to the annual publication of adult learners’ writings published by the Florida Literacy Coalition. Copies of the essay books are distributed to tutors and students at the annual breakfast.

The year 2011 brought big changes to the way literacy services are offered to adult learners in upper Pinellas. LCUP received a grant from Florida Blue and the Florida
Literacy Coalition that enabled us to offer “Staying Healthy” classes at Clearwater
East Library, where many Hispanic students were waiting for literacy services.
Instructional materials developed by the Florida Literacy Coalition provided a framework for the instructors. During the 12 weeks of health literacy classes, several students were matched with tutors. This was the beginning of a new process for placement of students.

Instead of waiting, adult literacy learners now attend conversation classes held in 9 locations in north Pinellas. Tutors also attend to receive continuing education and to meet students who need individual help. These effective outreach programs came about through articulation with agencies that already serve our clients. By using an outside-in point of view (that is getting out into communities and looking back at our organization to make programmatic decisions) LCUP board members and tutors have established collaborative relationships that serve to meet the individual needs of students in places closest to their homes.

Over the next few years expanded outreach efforts required redesign of the LCUP brochures and web page and the addition of a Facebook page. These actions increased our organization’s visibility and viability, therefore improving student and teacher recruitment rates and facilitating communication with our literacy partners. The LCUP website and Facebook page provide access and active links to instructional materials essential to effective teaching and learning. Talented and dedicated literacy volunteers maintain and update LCUP’s electronic communication tools and push information out to tutors and students.

In 2017 LCUP began offering classes through the Hispanic Outreach Centers in Clearwater and Tarpon Springs. This collaboration has facilitated outreach to communities of learners who are best served where children are welcome and transportation is provided. The commitment and energy of LCUP tutors and HOC staff ensure that this co-operative program will continue to meet the needs of ESOL students.

Another important milestone for 2017 was the creation of Welcome to Pinellas County, an instructional guide, made possible by a major grant from Pinellas Community Foundation. Funding for this valuable resource included provision for print copies that were presented to members of the Pinellas County School’s ESOL Community Advisory Board. This guide is also posted to the LCUP website providing easy access for tutors, teachers in the school district, and those who provide information to new arrivals to Pinellas County. Updating and maintaining the guide will ensure its usefulness and relevance for years to come.

Over the years, Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas has been funded by corporations, organizations and individuals who believe in our mission to change the lives of adult learners through literacy. Because of their generous support we have continued to operate without the aid of state and federal grants. Among these important partners are: The Pinellas Community Foundation, The Rotary Club of Dunedin, and the Estate of Virginia Roggenbaum. Corporate supporters include the Dollar General, Publix and Verizon Foundations. Affiliate literacy organizations that provide monetary and in-kind support include Pinellas District Schools, the Hispanic Outreach Center, north Pinellas county libraries, The Dunedin Friends of the Library, READ Pinellas, Florida Literacy Coalition and ProLiteracy, our national affiliate. With continued support of these partners LCUP looks forward to serving the literacy needs of adult learners in 2018 and in years to come.