Monday, June 1, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

I was on vacation last week, hence no blog posts! But I am back now and in full throttle.

Today marks the beginning of the new fiscal year at LIFT and with all new beginnings, you also have a time of reflection. I have been at LIFT a little more than a year, having come on board February 20, 2008. I have had all my firsts - first Volunteer and Donor of Distinction Luncheon - a mere eight days after I started work; first Spelling Bee - two months after coming on board; first Champions of Literacy Luncheon - you get the drift.

I remember when I first started at LIFT we were quoting "6,200 adult learners served". We are now quoting "more than 8,000 adult learners at LIFT". It is common knowledge around here that I am no math wizard and calculating percentages is not my forte. One deciding factor in the college I chose to attend was at that time, I would not have to take any math once I got there. I know for a fact that has all changed! But I digress... even I, the math illiterate, can tell you that is phenomenal growth in the past 12 months, serving 6,200 adults then and more than 8,000 now.

What else has LIFT accomplished this year in addition to serving more adult learners? We launched GED Direct, the only on line, interactive GED preparation course in the entire country geared to a reading level below fifth grade. If you can read at a 9th grade level (and 49% of the adults in Dallas County cannot), you can attend GED prep classes in the DISD or several other places. But what happens if you are in that 49% that reads below a fourth grade level? LIFT is the only game in town. Since launching GED Direct, LIFT has seen a tremendous increase in our upper level classes.

LIFT also implemented a Volunteer Newsletter this past year that goes out to more than 500 active volunteers. It is just one way to keep them informed and connected to LIFT. Our programming staff has also started Round Table Discussions where our volunteers share ideas and best practices. In turn, this information is shared among all the teachers, not just those attending.

LIFT has increased its awareness in the community in several ways. In January we received donated air time for our classes on several radio stations and we could barely field the 1,000+ phone calls we received. We have also had donated ads on the Dallas Bus and DART trains - four times this year alone. LIFT has also started a series of Breakfast Club meetings where we bring different groups in to learn about LIFT. These have proved highly successful. The Dallas Morning News, the Advocate and the Dallas Business Journal have all been wonderful about printing our press releases and giving LIFT much needed publicity.

Donations are down, that is for sure, but we are working smarter and leaner. I look forward to the next fiscal year and the new possibilities it brings. I predict this time next year, I will be reporting to you "more than 9,000 served in the past twelve months". Won't that be exciting? - being part of offering a permanent fix to a lifelong problem - adult illiteracy - to more than 9,000 households! Wow - keep watching!

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