LIFTED – and then some: Adult literacy program strengthens lives, community – and more at the Opportunity Center
By Martha Heimberg |
My introduction to the transformational power of LIFT (Literacy Instruction for Texas) began almost a year ago when I walked into their new offices in the shiny and spacious Opportunity Center on Malcolm X Boulevard to contribute my time and skills to help functionally illiterate adults learn to read and write English. I’d just retired from a 30-year career of teaching college English, and a former student now on LIFT’s board of directors sent me on my way.
LIFT is a private, non-profit organization supported by many foundations and individuals; all the teachers are volunteers, bringing skills from a widely range of personal and professional backgrounds.
I learned that LIFT offers much more than its nationally recognized program of basic adult literacy courses. In the years since its founding in 1961, LIFT has built a series of courses and programs to carry new readers onward and upward. Some courses integrate basic math and language to enable students to live and work more effectively. LIFT prepares students for the high school equivalency diploma, or GED, and conducts the testing and certification on site. Through their GED distance-learning program, LIFT helps prepare adult learners for the test, working from 10 sites in three counties.
I wanted to help in the first-level reading program. After a series of interviews and applications, I began to assist the lead volunteer teachers in LIFT’s extensive SEE program, an acronym for Sequential English Education, a program designed to include all kinds of learning differences utilized at the Shelton School, and adapted by LIFT for adult learners. Sixty hours of assistance and 40 hours of classroom training later, I became a lead volunteer teacher working with LIFT staff members and other volunteers to open the mysterious door of reading to a roomful of eager people who, for a multitude of reasons, didn’t learn to read as children.