Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) Announces Linda K. Johnson as CEO

DALLAS – Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT), a leading provider of adult literacy services in North Texas, announced the selection of education and nonprofit leader Linda K. Johnson as its next president and chief executive officer.  Johnson joins LIFT from Dallas Independent School District (DISD), where she served as the Executive Director of the College and Career Readiness departments.  Johnson will succeed Lisa Hembry, who joined LIFT in 2010 and will retire this year.

LIFT was founded in 1961 by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Greater Dallas Section, in response to their concern over the illiteracy rate among adults in the Dallas area.  Under Hembry’s leadership, the organization relocated to CitySquare’s Opportunity Center, a collective impact campus, and formed partnerships with The Shelton School, DISD, and Southern Methodist University to provide innovative literacy curriculum and curriculum delivery tools.  LIFT also partnered with Dallas Theater Center’s (DTC) Public Works Dallas to offer theater classes to LIFT students, teachers and staff, and participated in DTC’s Tony award-winning production of The Tempest.

Johnson was selected by the board due to her extensive background in nonprofit management, strategic planning, and data analysis, her knowledge of career readiness programs, and her experience in understanding the education and skills required to join today’s workforce and go to college.

“Linda has a vision for LIFT that has inspired us to imagine a greater impact for low-literate and illiterate adults who want to develop the skills needed to improve their lives,” said Paul Thibodeaux, Chair of the LIFT Board of Directors.  “She is passionate about helping adults develop the literacy skills they need to improve their lives, and has valuable experience in helping our students achieve those goals.”

While working for DISD, Johnson oversaw district efforts that increased student performance in college and career programs, including the expansion of career programs to more than 200 high-growth pathways.  She has more than two decades of nonprofit management experience, serving for 15 years in the CEO role for various organizations in Texas and Connecticut.

Johnson earned a Ph.D. in Public and Urban Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington, and an M.B.A from the University of Dallas.  She was a developer of the College and Career Readiness Indicator System (CRIS), and won the 2012 Council of the Great City Schools/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Research and Assessment Leadership national award for her white paper “Early Indicators of Future College Success.”

LIFT student featured in DMN series on working poor

LIFT student Ron Reney reads at roughly a fourth-grade level. He makes ends meet by working two $11-an-hour jobs, washing dishes and working in a warehouse. But the finances got more complicated in late May when he and his girlfriend welcomed a baby girl into their family. Learn more about Ron’s story in this Dallas Morning News series on the working poor in Dallas.


A Letter from the CEO: We did it!

By Lisa Hembry, CEO of Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT)

We are excited to announce that the partnership between Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a semi-finalist in the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation competition. Our team, PeopleForWords, includes collaborators from LIFT, SMU Guildhall, and SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development. This is a global competition where teams develop mobile applications compatible on smart phone devices that have the potential to increase literacy skills among adult learners. The solutions discovered through the applications will help reveal and overcome roadblocks in improving adult literacy through providing access, retention, and a scalable product to the public.

In North Texas, where 1 in 5 adults cannot read, this is more than a competition. This is a dedicated effort by our team to tackle the growing issue of low-literacy and poverty. Each organization involved in the collaboration brings their expertise to the competition: adult literacy training, knowledge in education, and game development. Together these skills have enabled our team to build a functional and fun application that helps improve adult literacy through increasing basic reading and writing skills anytime, anywhere. PeopleForWords allows users to play the role of an archaeologist traveling the world to decode artifacts, creating an engaging, learning experience while working towards the goal of improving reading.

Our team is the only remaining team in Texas, and one of eight semi-finalists selected from a field of 109 registered teams. Year-long testing of the semi-finalist apps involving over 12,000 low-literate adults has begun in 3 U.S. cities, including Dallas.  Up to 5 finalists will be determined in 2018, and each will be awarded $100,000.

Dallas is a city of big ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.  I feel confident that one of the solutions to the problem of low-literacy and poverty in America, which is a serious problem, will come from Dallas.  I would like to recognize and extend a big thank you to Communities Foundation of Dallas, an early investor in our project, for the generous investment of $20,000 in our mobile app.

Our adult learners face numerous challenges learning to read, including time, money, transportation and childcare.  Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis is a tool that adult literacy providers can use with students who don’t have the time, money or transportation to regularly attend literacy classes.

You can read the official press release on the Adult Literacy XPRIZE website here.  You can follow the development of the application, and our team’s progress in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition at and

Thank you for your continued support.