Literacyworks Year End 2015: Happy Holidays

Warm greetings and Happy Holidays from the Literacyworks Staff!

Literacyworks Staff 2015

What a year it’s been. In the spirit of the season, we decided to have our own Literacyworks “Top Ten List” (in no particular order) of all the great things that happened in 2015 and all the things for which we're grateful. Here we go:

#10. LINCS Region 4 Regional Professional Development Center: We had another successful year meeting and exceeding our goals for our US Department of Education LINCS Region 4 Regional Professional Development Center. We conducted over 30 Adult Education Professional Development trainings in our region of 14 states with 874 adult educators participating for a total of 6,366 hours of training.

#9. The Literacyworks Center: The Center had its Grand Opening during the 2015 Fall semester at the SRJC Petaluma Campus. We established the Adult Literacy Award (thank you anonymous family foundation) through the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation and worked with Rachael Cutcher, SRJC Manager of Scholarship Programs, to grant 161 awards to students in need. Thank you for all your great work Rachael!

#8. Peter Coyote: The actor, author, director, screenwriter and narrator, became an honorary board member and offered to participate in a fundraiser for us in 2016.

#7. Literacyworks Board: We sincerely appreciate the support and wisdom of our Literacyworks Board: Elizabeth Howland, President, Eric Backman, Secretary, William Soper, Treasurer, Jeff Asher, Amy Critchett, and Gloria Cruz McCallister

#6. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey: Lynn is our Literacyworks Center founder/partner and Honorary Board Chairperson. She continues to be our biggest supporter.

#5. Founding Friends of the Center and program partners: Many people and organizations are helping to make the Literacyworks Center successful including the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, SRJC, Center Point, North Bay Children’s Center, West Marin Community Services (Pt. Reyes Station), Volunteer Center of Sonoma County and our Center donors, both individuals and organizations, including Redwood Credit Union, Codding Foundation, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Marin Community Foundation, and Schwab Charitable Giving.

#4. SRJC Petaluma Campus: The staff and administration have been very supportive of the Center with particular thanks to Jane Saldana-Talley, Vice President, Petaluma Campus, whose assistance was and is invaluable, Matthew Long, Dean of Student Services and Catherine Williams, Dean of Instruction and Enrollment Management.

#3. Our Center participants: Forty-two adult students have enrolled to date and many more are scheduled to sign-on in the Spring Semester. Also, high-fives to our volunteer tutors who will start helping our students succeed with one-to-one tutoring in 2016.

#2. Literacyworks staff: Thanks to our talented staff: Chris Schultz, Kelin Backman, Marty Ferrini, Lisa Thompson, Rita Sorpranith, Elana Yonah, and Kristin Ockert.

#1. You: We are mostly grateful for all the Literacyworks supporters, both anonymous and public, and particularly you!

Many hands have helped us fulfill this important dream of making basic skill education accessible to all North Bay residents. Numerous barriers to education exist for adults, including the costs of tuition, school supplies, and computers, the expense of childcare and transportation, and a lack of fluency in English and basic math skills. We believe that we all benefit from an educated society, and we hope to ease those barriers to education at The Center.

Literacyworks is helping underprivileged and underrepresented adults secure better jobs, become better parents, and contribute more to their community. Thanks for all your support this year and next.


Paul Heavenridge
Executive Director

Ways to Help

Help Change The Lives Of Veterans with Literacyworks and Center Point

The purpose of The Literacyworks Center is to assist underserved, below-basic-skills students in solving the many educational, personal and logistical challenges they must face to stay in school and succeed in work. The Center will provide advising support and need-based Adult Literacy Awards to our Veterans that will help them break their persistence barriers such as transportation, childcare and tuition. This will help to ensure our Veterans complete their educational and career goals.

Why Read? Reason #8. America, We Have a Literacy Problem.

literate for life.png

Yes, we have a serious literacy problem and it'll get worse if we don't help our citizens become literate.

Our economy, our society, our very democracy depends on an educated workforce. Basic skills are critical to the prosperity and wellbeing of individuals and are key drivers of economic growth and societal advancement. But today, adults in the U.S. score well below the international average in the foundational skills considered most critical for our global competitiveness and economic strength: math, reading and problem-solving. A 2013 study by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies discovered that 1 in 6 adults have low literacy skills and nearly one-third have weak numeracy and problem solving skills.

Employers often struggle to fill jobs requiring basic skills while literacy funding is at an all-time low. In California, more than half of all adults are not proficient readers and 6,151,072 (almost 1 in 5) have not earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. The costs to society are immense. That’s the bad news.

What’s the good news? Becoming literate for life is not costly and the results are tangible.

Take Enrique, an adult with low literacy skills who was living in the Bay Area with few prospects to find a well-paying job to support his family. Then he stumbled upon a library literacy program that gave him the fundamentals to increase his workplace skills, which helped him to secure a job with a national airline. “When you go into a literacy program, you come out reading. You come out literate. And you never go back,” he says.

Enrique was lucky. The number of out-of-school adults needing help in Sonoma County is considerable. But our adult education services and programs are grossly underfunded and can’t hope to serve everyone in need. Every adult school program in the county, with the exception of Petaluma, has closed in recent years. Library literacy programs can’t meet the demand and Santa Rosa Junior College and other non-profits are trying to fill the gap but waiting lists are long.

If we do nothing, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said, "No matter how hard they work, these adults will be stuck, unable to support their families and contribute fully to our country."

Why should you care? Because we all benefit from an educated society.

On an economic level, the return on investment is huge. A literate workforce attracts more business resulting in higher salaries, enhanced job security, greater productivity, increased consumer spending and tax revenues, reduced correctional costs, and a decreased drain on social services. Literacy is the most basic employable skill, the essential element of economic development and living-wage jobs.

On a personal level, parents are better able to support their children’s education and nurture healthier citizens. When adults gain the power to read and write it is nothing short of transformational – resulting in healthier and, yes, happier communities.

To help address the need in Sonoma, we are launching The Literacyworks Center to provide more basic and workplace skills programs. The Center, partnering with the Santa Rosa Junior College on its Petaluma Campus, will work with underserved basic skills learners to address the educational and logistical issues they must manage to stay in school and succeed in work. The Center will act as a liaison between education programs and monitor each learner’s progress, helping them to complete their educational goals.

How can you help?

Help fund a hero! Support the new Literacyworks Center at SRJC by giving a donation to help administer The Center. Go to and click the “Donate” button.

Volunteer! Our local libraries and literacy programs need more tutors.


This Op-Ed appeared in the Press Democrat on November 2, 2014. Written by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and Paul Heavenridge, it was modified for this blog. Lynn Woolsey is a retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives where she sat on Education and Labor Committees during her 20-year tenure. Paul Heavenridge is Executive Director of Literacyworks. To find out more about the Literacyworks Center, visit


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Time to Reskill Event a Success

We are pleased to report that our Time to Reskill event in collaboration with Santa Rosa Junior College was a resounding success. Stakeholders from industry, education, government, and the non-profit world convened for a welcome message from Jane Saldana-Talley, Vice President Petaluma Campus Santa Rosa Junior College, followed by a discussion on the need for services for individuals with low literacy by Frank Chong, President/Superintendent Santa Rosa Junior College. Dr. Chong's talk was followed by a prerecorded message to the group by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, an overview of The Survey of Adult Skill by Paul Heavenridge, Executive Director Literacyworks/LINCS RPDC 4, and a call to action by Lynn Woolsey, Congresswoman.

After the presentations, attendees were divided into three facilitated groups to discuss individual experiences and ideas about the U.S.'s growing employability skills gap. Literacyworks has submitted these ideas to the U.S. Department of Education for the national action plan to improve the foundational skills of adults.

Special thanks to the SRJC Petaluma Campus staff for helping make this event a success.

Watch the video introduction by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education.