For the Literacy Council of Williamson County the mission is simple: engage, empower, employ.
Whether it is helping people with limited English skills get into a nursing program, helping them pass state assessments or offering them education support, the LCWC works to help people succeed and lead better lives.
“What we hope to do is go out and find the students, the adults that are in our communities that need an extra boost,” LCWC Executive Director Kimberly Goode said. “They are usually living in poverty; our students are undereducated and unemployed or underemployed. Whether they come to us for GED, vocational training or [English as a second language], it’s our job to make sure we provide the literacy tools needed to take their lives to the next level.”
LCWC serves approximately 700 students each year with seven paid full- and part-time staff along with a team of 70 active volunteers. The council offers both formal classes and in-home lessons. The organization currently offers ESL, GED and high school equivalency, adult basic education and vocational training at multiple sites throughout Cedar Park, Leander, Round Rock, Hutto, Taylor and Bartlett.
“It’s really a whole, multifaceted approach of taking the individual from a place of desperateness to seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” Goode said.
During a late September morning a dozen students speaking six different languages took spots at tables in the Leander Public Library’s Conference Room C to work on lessons. Goode said the LCWC’s ESL program has students who speak 24 non-English languages.
“The folks are just interesting people to know,” volunteer Beth Sterling said. “It’s a delight to work with them.”
Sterling and fellow volunteer Tegan Retzer led the pupils through lessons that included a group conversation recapping the previous night’s homework, a civics lesson about the requirements to become a U.S. citizen and a practice phone conversation.
Mary Hengstebeck, Leander Public Library and Cedar Park Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church volunteer coordinator, became more involved with the organization after attending a training session and learning that the LCWC had trouble finding locations to hold classes.
“Everybody needs to be treated with respect, and I don’t think we do that as well as we need to in the U.S.,” Hengstebeck said.
In September the LCWC unveiled a new website, and it plans to increase its presence on social media.
Goode said these changes should help get the word out about the organization to people between the ages of 18 and 25 who could use help.
“We have to have these platforms available for that target audience to find us online, apply online, maybe see a video about what we do before they go to the class so that they can feel comfortable in showing up,” Goode said. “It’s somewhat common knowledge that 18- to 25-year-olds don’t call on the phone to ask questions and they don’t just drop in an office to ask questions.”