The Woodward News

November 17, 2012

Literacy Council continues mission

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — The Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council has served the Woodward, Harper and Ellis county areas for over 20 years, providing education in the reading, writing, and speaking of English to teachable adults, and during literacy month in November, the organization is taking the opportunity to promote some of the services it offers.

To do so, it honored distinguished members of the Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council with awards during the group's recent annual meeting

"Three new awards were created for the occasion to acknowledge tutors who've gone above and beyond for the education of their students," NWOLC President Laurie Steenbergen-Young said. "The Mary Ann Hawkins Award, named after Mary Ann Hawkins whose maintained the longest tutor/learner relationship at the NWOLC, over 12 years of dedication to a student. The awards were given to tutors Betsy Baker and Georgie Pope in recognition of outstanding long term commitment to students in excess of 2 years.

"The Jessie Vanderpool award, named after an NWOLC board member who is both a published author as well as renowned for her commitment to life long learning and literacy at all levels, will be presented to students of a year or more who are also pursuing their GEDs. This year's award went to Christina Perez, an ESL student who successfully attained her GED.

"The final award is the Eloisa Tapia Extra Mile award presented to those who go above and beyond to build bridges within the community and promote literacy. The award is named after a Eloisa Tapia who served the Northwest Oklahoma community by connecting individuals by providing translations. The award was presented to Mauren Mora and Sylvia Routh who've provided exceptional English Second Language training not only through their work but as volunteers as well."

During the meeting the members also discussed some of the new projects they are working on, which include a new English conversation group to be held at Daylight Donuts every Tuesday in addition to regular classes to aid English learners, as well as the partnering with the St. Peter's Catholic Church to promote ESL tutoring. The literacy council has provided the church with Spanish/English dictionaries and is seeking other churches to partner with to aid tutoring efforts said NWOLC coordinator Jan Wills.

"While the group does contribute largely to ESL training, their literacy goals also include aiding individuals in their attainment of their GED. Nearly 24 percent of adults in Northwest Oklahoma lack High School diplomas, 10 percent higher than the state average, severely limiting their job opportunities, and the hiring opportunities of employers," said Wills.

The workforce is not the only area of life affected by illiteracy. Statistics published by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries indicate that nearly 1 million Oklahoman adults cannot read well enough to follow medical instructions. Its apparent that the illiteracy can be devastating to many aspects of life.

The literacy council is working to combat this illiteracy holding back many Oklahomans, and in doing so improving the quality of life for Northwest Oklahoma. In their effort to do so the group is looking for churches, civic groups, and large employers willing to partner with NWOLC to aid their tutoring efforts.

"There are countless areas where being able to communicate improves the quality of life for northwest Oklahoma," Wills said. "But sometimes something as basic as being able to communicate can be looked over. We're simply asking for support from the people, organizations, and companies that benefit from the efforts we make to educate people in literacy and fluency of the English language."

Those interested in sponsoring the NWOLC and giving back for the efforts they put in may contact the organization through the coordinator Jan Willis at 254-8582 or email her at Those interested in learning or improving their English reading or writing skills may contact the organization at the same number.