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 http://www.peopleforwords.org and http://www.smu.edu/Simmons/AboutUs/xprize

Thank you for your continued support.


LIFT and SMU Team Named 1 of 8 Semi-finalists for $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

The Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) team was named today one of eight semi-finalists advancing in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Guildhall graduate video game development program are working with LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills. The SMU and LIFT team, PeopleForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016.

Drawing upon the education experts at SMU’s Simmons School, game developers at Guildhall and adult literacy experts at LIFT, the team developed “Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis. ” In the game, players become archeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis.  By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.

Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014.

Testing of the eight semi-finalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May of 2018 and the winner will be named in 2019.

WHAT: Demonstration of SMU’s  “Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis” adult literacy video game, one of eight semifinalists in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE.

WHO: Education experts from SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, video game development experts from SMU’s Guildhall graduate video game development program, literacy experts from Literacy Instruction for Texas, LIFT students who helped test the game.

WHERE: Literacy Instruction for Texas, 1610 Malcom X, Suite 320, Dallas, TX 75226

WHEN: 11:00 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, July 18

FOR MORE INFORMATION: adultliteracy.xprize.org, lift-texas.org, www.peopleforwords.org

Official Adult Literacy XPRIZE press release:  http://adultliteracy.xprize.org/press-release/semifinalist-teams-and-field-testing-cities-announced-7m-barbara-bush

Spring 2017 High School Equivalency Graduation

LIFT celebrated the graduation of 9 High School Equivalency (HSE) program graduates on Wednesday, June 14 at City Square Opportunity Center.  The commencement address was delivered by Dr. Monica Williams, Vice President of University Advancement at University of North Texas at Dallas.  LIFT staffer and poet-in-residence Doris Black Hubbard read a poem she had written for the class.

The graduates included Bruce Bennett, Javier Carrasco, Tracey Coleman, Lorraine Nunez Lopez, Claudia Patricia Mendoza, Jesse Perez, Jael Purunker, Selena Quinonez, and Sergio Turcios.