Literacy is the ability to read, write, comprehend, and use technology at a level that empowers an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member.
Related: Annual Symposium Celebrates Neighborhood-Based Literacy and Learning in Kalamazoo
We are pleased to offer an exciting lineup of dynamic presentations and case studies of innovative approaches to literacy and learning. The keynote, delivered by Community/University Fellow Dr. Karika Parker, will showcase the EDisON “Education is On” initiative, which serves to transform the Edison neighborhood into a vibrant learning community. Read below to see the agenda and list of presenters.
- 8:00 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. Registration
- 8:15 a.m.- 8:20 a.m. Welcome remarks by Dr. Deveta Gardner
- 8:20 a.m. – 8:40 a.m. Opening presentation: The Right to Literacy by Michael Evans
- 8:45 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. – Parent Literacy Together: Our Favorite Books and Stories by Kristhyna Fermin, Kamaria Nichols, Dr. Elizabeth Isidro. The KLC-Parent Literacy Together Program in partnership with Western Michigan University launched a pilot program called “Our Favorite Books and Stories” in October 2022. The program consisted of a series of in-person sessions that centered on learners’ and their families’ literacy needs and practices. This interactive presentation will highlight and demonstrate the program features as well as a description of the parents’ and children’s book needs, motivation for learning, and experiences using books. This presentation will also showcase participants’ learning outcomes: they were able to learn new words in English, get more motivated to read in English, were able to interact with their children in more meaningful ways, and get their children more excited to engage with books. The objective of this presentation is to explain how using a multigenerational approach to teach literacy to diverse families has a positive impact in building community and English language learning.
- 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Morning break
- 10:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. – Digital Skills – It’s Not What It Used To Be: by Jessi Pavey, Katy Laws, Renee Hammond. Do you remember Mavis Beacon, green computer screens, Oregon Trail, DOS, and even Basic? These were the days in which you could just simply enjoy the computer or input data. Digital literacy skills are no longer a thing you MAY want. It is a thing you NEED to be successful. Through this session you will learn how the Kalamazoo Literacy Council created a curriculum giving learners the necessary skills to enhance their lives. You will also hear how Burlington English can help your learner improve their English speaking and employability skills.
- 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Becoming a Refugee Tutor and Mentor: by Katherine Suender, Ed.S. Katherine’s presentation will include an insider look at what it is like to be a tutor and mentor for refugee resettlement through Bethany Christian Services and how the Kalamazoo Literacy Council is now helping her adult mentees gain essential English literacy skills.
- 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Lunch break
- 12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – Keynote presentation: Addressing Why Place Matters! The EDisOn Project by Dr. Karika Parker. In the Edison neighborhood, Place Matters! represents a vibrant educational community. In this neighborhood, people matter as citizens work, live, play, eat, socialize, and lift up literacy together. Upon conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:
- Explain why Place Matters! in Kalamazoo’s largest and most diverse neighborhood.
- Recognize how the historic photographs (1890s-2022) of the Edison neighborhood showcase numerous community-based partnerships, robust land and housing developments, and an innovative business/industry sector.
- Explain how culture, history, equity and the social determinants of health have impacted the work of community-university partnerships in the Edison neighborhood.
- Use the concepts covered in the presentation to further advance the work of Place Matters! using a community-based participatory process to deepen and further expand capacity for change in literacy outcomes for Western Michigan University and the Kalamazoo Literacy Council in the Edison neighborhood.
- 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – Health Literacy: The partnership with KLC and WMU extends to our Health Literacy and Empowerment programming. We teamed up with the Bronson School of Nursing to offer “Feel Good Friday” and “Tune Up Tuesdays.” Nursing students created a lively curriculum filled with tips and strategies that learners could use for themselves and their families.Topics included managing stress, lowering anxiety, and exercising for better mental health. Similarly, students from the School of Social Work created a weekly Empowerment class offering goal setting and other strategies for stress management. Learners gained critical literacy skills through vocabulary and reading aloud, while enjoying fun activities around healthy living and nutrition.
- 3:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Closing remarks: Dr. Luchara Wallace
Dr. Deveta Gardner serves as Associate Dean of Merze Tate College at WMU. During her 25-year tenure at WMU, Dr. Gardner has served the campus community in numerous ways, including as adjunct faculty, past president of College of Education’s Alumni Board of Directors and School University Partnership Team, University One WMU design and Compensation Teams, Black Faculty and Staff Founding Committee, WMU Signature Advisory Board, and the COVID Task Force and University Planning Team, in addition to servings as the WMU Institutional Representative and as a board member for MI-ACE Women’s Network. Dr. Gardner earned a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from WMU, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Howard University in Washington, D.C. As a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, within her other roles in the university, and channeling her passion for mentoring, Dr. Gardner spends most of her time focused on best practices for students so that all may THRIVE, while yielding opportunities for growth and development. Her investment in people extends beyond her role in the university. She has served as cheer coach at Kalamazoo Central High School for over three decades. Additionally, she is active with numerous organizations within the community, regionally, and nationally, including, serving on the boards of the Douglass Community Association and the YWCA. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and volunteers with several organizations throughout the Kalamazoo Community, that support women, youth, education, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In 2021 she was the recipient of the Black Heroes Award from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She also served on the Campaign Cabinet for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council’s 2021 Everyone Needs to Read Annual Campaign. When she is not working or serving, Dr. Gardner enjoys spending time with her family.
Michael Evans is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and has been with the organization since August 2010. He is the facilitator of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County, which serves as a forum to determine adult literacy priorities, identify and expand resources, and align services and programs in the county. Evans is Vice-Chair of the Region 8 Regional Prosperity Initiative for the State of Michigan. He serves as the Co-Director of the Adult Literacy Research and Training Symposium, which is hosted annually in collaboration with Western Michigan University. He serves on the Advisory Board for the WMU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and on the Board of Directors of Family & Children Services. Before coming to the KLC, Evans worked for 15 years in the nonprofit sector in Battle Creek with several organizations including Community Inclusive Recreation, Summit Pointe, and New Level Sports. He was Executive Director of Heritage Battle Creek and the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek and has served on many statewide boards, including the Michigan Humanities Council, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission, and the Michigan Association of Cultural Arts Associations.
Dr. Elizabeth Isidro is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Studies at Western Michigan University. She also serves as the Director of the McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic, where she works with teacher candidates and families to support the literacy development of Prek-8th grade students. Her research interests center on socially just literacy teaching through the use of learner-centered and asset-based perspectives, critical theory, and civic engagement.
Kristhyna Fermín is a doctoral student at Western Michigan University’s Education and Human Development program. She has been working in the educational field for fifteen years in different capacities, predominantly with adolescents and adults. Her research interests are reading motivation in multilinguals, adolescents, and adults.
Kamaria Nichols is the KLC’s Parent Literacy Navigator and she joins us from the Discovery Center Preschool and Head Start, where she gained robust experience as an early learning professional. We are excited for her to come onboard to continue building out Parent Literacy Together, working alongside program partners and in our Little Scholars Child Development Center. She’ll also be helping to create and manage our Family Literacy Days planned for this spring/summer in the Read and Seed Interpretive Learning Center. Through these activities, she will engage parents in literacy-based family fun as they become more confident first teachers for their children. She is a Kalamazoo native and loves that it’s small yet culturally, socio-economically, and religiously diverse which makes it a great place to raise children. She looks forward to creating a parent council to help them take ownership and feel empowered in their family’s literacy journey. Kamaria is a breast cancer survivor of eight years and loves shopping, movies, and spending time with her famiy including her five grandchildren. Fun fact: she has a tshirt that says “Literacy is my jam!”
Jessi Pavey is the Operations Manager for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, where she is responsible for assisting the organization’s more than 700 learners in reaching their goals. In 2011, she joined the organization as a work study student from Davenport University. Within a year, she was promoted to Student Services Coordinator. She is certified as a data management specialist and is regarded as an expert in multiple data and computer-based instruction platforms, including MAERS, PLATO Courseware, CASAS, and TABE. She developed the KLC’s Computer Class curriculum and trains volunteers as instructors. She also is a trained Navigator and assists in training new Navigators.
Katy Laws is the KLC’s Adult Learning Services Navigator. In her role, she assists learners who want to obtain their GED and those seeking to strengthen their employability skills. She leads the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program as well as the writing and computer classes. She also supports the Edison Early Childhood Education Career Pathway by providing wraparound services to program participants. Before joining the KLC, Katy worked as an E-commerce specialist at Goodwill Industries managing online sales and inventory.
Katherine Suender, Ed.S. is a retired teacher and doctoral literacy education student at Western Michigan University. Katherine has taught K-6 students for 25 years and is currently completing the fourth year of her Ph.D. in literacy studies at Western. In addition to being a full-time student, Katherine is a teaching assistant for the Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies department at WMU and a volunteer/mentor for Bethany Christian Services in Kalamazoo, specializing in refugee resettlement of unaccompanied minors and young adults. Her passion is to help refugees, people learning English as a new language who are new to the U.S., become valued and participatory members of the greater Kalamazoo community and economy.
dissertation chair, at Western Michigan University where she was a doctoral candidate in
Educational Leadership/Organizational Analysis. In her role at the KLC as a 2022
Community/University Fellow, she will support the EDisON “Education is On” initiative, which
serves to transform the Edison neighborhood into an immersive learning community. The
project will feature various learning experiences including skills-building classes, outdoor
activities, and professional development opportunities. Dr. Parker has an extensive background
in the facilitation of developmental processes and structures for organizations in critical thinking,
organizational assessment tools and analysis, policy development, board relations, and
complex adaptive systems theory as a Certified TOPs master trainer and facilitator. As an
educator and a proud graduate of KPS Adult Education, Dr. Parker has a deep and personal
relationship to literacy. She is passionate about using her background and skills to “help others
open their eyes in a different way,” and is excited to watch literacy grow and learning flourish in
the neighborhood. One of the things she loves about the KLC is that “people are made to feel
whole, and we’re here to support them.” At WMU, Dr. Parker was a member of the first
graduating class of Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholars, a Thurgood Marshall
Fellow, a recipient of the PastorsOnCall Ministries, Inc. Dissertation Scholarship, Patricia L.
Thompson Dissertation Award, Wegenke Endowed Dissertation Award, University Dames
Endowed Scholarship and is a Presidential Scholar. Dr. Parker earned both her bachelor’s
degree in Sociology and Black Americana Studies and Masters in U. S. History from Western
Kalamazoo Literacy Council is a member organization of ProLiteracy.
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