Presenters Needed!

Let your voice be heard at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront May 9-11th!

Next year marks the 28th anniversary of the Florida Literacy Conference. This is a great opportunity to share your wisdom, techniques, research and promising practices in adult and family literacy with others from across the state.

As a presenter, you will receive the benefits of priority registration and networking with your peers. You can also enjoy a savings of $25.00 off the regular registration rate.

We know you have great ideas, and we want everyone to hear them. Let us know if you have any session ideas that could help the conference be even better this year.

Proposed sessions will be selected based on the information you provide.  Since we try to offer new sessions each year, please note that if you have previously presented your proposed session it should still be relevant, timely, and updated with fresh material.

To submit a proposal, complete the online form. Proposals must be received online by Monday, December 12, 2011. Information as it appears on this form will be used in the final conference program.

Contact Yari Payne, Education & Training Coordinator, at (407) 246-7110 x 203 or

Thank you for your time and support, we hope to see you at our 28th anniversary of the Florida Literacy Conference.

Jonel Persinger: Americorps* VISTA from a Site Supervisor perspective

As an AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor, I have witnessed literal miracles as needs have been met for our non-profit agency.  Most non-profits during these tough times are running on low fumes: lack of funding, staff support, community connections [as they are going through tough times too], and program structures being compromised by increasing demands while resources remain shallow.  In short, we are all doing more with less.  I first became introduced to AmeriCorps VISTA through the suggestion of a fellow agency about 3 years ago and what an amazing adventure it has been.   Upon registering, I not only inherited great program support, but I shared in a fundamental passionate mission—the war on poverty.

Both of my VISTA ‘s that I have been privileged to work with have been sharp, creative, energetic women.  As each stepped across the threshold of grant wonderland, recruitment/retention challenges, and radical program changes, they grasped the vision of the mission quickly and securely.  Out in the field they’ve loved influencing the community to also see the vision of AmeriCorps and Volusia Literacy Council.  Monies have been raised, partnerships established, fundraisers ‘funded’ with in-kind donations and gifts, community awareness cultivated, volunteers recruited and recently,  financial and workforce literacy birthed [two new programs].  Can I go on?  Yes, I could go on about the programs that have led to a stronger, brighter program—at the very least I will say, we would not be where we are today without them.  Thank you ladies!!

I must give outstanding credit to the overseer of the VISTA program for our state, Florida Literacy Coalition.  They are an amazing support system to the program and the challenges we face.  Through state collaborations, training in the mission, navigating through paperwork [and SO MUCH more]—WHEW! All I can say is, “I am ‘SO RELIEVED’ they are there for us!”  I literally feel I could call them at 2am and they would be there.  [Don’t worry FLC, I’ll try not to make a habit of it.]  They too share the passionate mission and through that passion they hold us little Community Based Organizations’s all together through their grant leadership, program encouragement, resource provision and most importantly keeping us on time with our quarterly reports.  😉  (Can I do the text wink here?)

It has been an honor to supervise the VISTA program and my heart is full of the deepest gratitude for those who provide and serve in AmeriCorps.  I stand by their commission of the war against poverty with unfailing faith.  Each person who has the privilege of being a recipient of their services has been awarded a great opportunity to change their life and move forward toward their dreams.  We need you AmeriCorps VISTA and we cannot thank you enough for the difference you make: one mission, one program, one incredible life at a time.

Andy Nash: Learner Persistence, Key to Success

Andy Nash

In the New England Learner Persistence Project, 18 diverse ABE programs throughout New England investigated promising persistence strategies and reported on their impact on attendance, cycle completion, and program practices. In reviewing the dozens of program findings, we tried to understand why the strategies were so successful. What explained their effectiveness?

Our analysis led us to conclude that the strategies work because they support adults’ need for six things, which we call the “drivers of persistence.” Programs can use these drivers to stimulate their thinking about ways to improve learner persistence.

Community and belonging

When we feel welcomed, respected, and offered a sense of belonging, we are more apt to return to that setting or task. For that reason, cultivating a sense of belonging and community from the moment a prospective adult learner comes through the doors or calls is an important persistence strategy.

Clarity of purpose

Clarity of purpose refers to helping students gain clarity about their own purposes for learning – their goals and dreams – and how the instructional approaches of their teachers address those purposes. Knowing this builds trust that the program will meet their needs.

A sense of competence

Adults’ beliefs about their competence and self-efficacy can have a profound effect on their persistence and achievement. Students with more self-efficacy are more willing to persist to reach their goals in the face of adversity.


Learning is difficult in an environment that is chaotic or unstable. This is challenging, especially, for the many adult learners whose lives are marked by instability caused by poverty and trauma. According to Perry (2006), “The major challenge to the educator working with highly stressed or traumatized adults is to furnish the structure, predictability, and sense of safety that can help them begin to feel safe enough to learn.”


The degree of perceived relevance of instruction to the adult learners’ goals, interests and life experience is a key factor in adults’ motivation to persist in their studies. Most adult learners juggle many competing priorities that may take precedence if the instructional program does not feel meaningful to their needs and interests.


Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make things happen through their actions. As people mature, they move from dependence toward self-direction, and want to be treated as responsible individuals with the capacity to determine things for themselves.

For a description of the specific strategies investigated by NELP programs, see our project report or visit our website.

Zach Lynn: A Potential VISTA has Great Potential

The non-profit world is hectic.  I’ve never been in an environment as fast-paced, demanding, exciting, and dynamic.  A day can start without me knowing it and end long after I thought I’d be leaving the office.  It’s not hard to get so caught up in my work that I forget lunch breaks even existed.  My mission is all-encompassing.  My current goal: find an AmeriCorps*VISTA.

New AmeriCorps*VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) start their journey by creating an application on the AmeriCorps website.  They can search through work opportunities based on their interests, areas of expertise, or location.  Some VISTAs want to stick with their community and find a non-profit organization in their neighborhood while others want to branch out and explore a new part of the country.  After some candidate selections and interviews, there’s a new bright and shining face in a lucky non-profit’s office, ready to make America a better place.

As a former VISTA at the Adult Literacy League, I had many hectic days.  Whether I was building relationships “in the field” with local community members or sitting in a cubicle writing reports, my days were full and exciting.  I was luckily given the opportunity to see my developments continue to grow when I was offered a position on the Adult Literacy League’s staff as the Volunteer Coordinator after my VISTA year of service.  Now I’m searching for a new VISTA to continue the great work for which AmeriCorps members are famous.

A strong candidate can handle a demanding workload and will create projects that enhance the organization in ways never thought of before… Such as creating a social media outreach plan, finding new ways to reach clients and volunteers, and develop new programs and projects.  VISTA development work strengthens an organization’s mission.

While I’m currently going through applications, I’m looking for candidates that have a strong goal for themselves, as well.  Good VISTAs know they can increase their own skills while also helping their community.  At the Adult Literacy League we want to maximize our VISTA’s potential by utilizing their abilities and helping them work on new skills.  Not only will it help them, but their growth will help us!

Central Florida needs great people that are hard workers, love variety, have goals, and want to serve people in their community.  Central Florida needs AmeriCorps*VISTAs.  Sign up today on the AmeriCorps website and change lives… Hopefully your application ends up on my desk!

The First Meeting

After learning more about adult illiteracy, I decided to start tutoring an adult learner. I signed up with the Adult Literacy League and was quickly assigned to a student who had been on the waiting list for some time. My past service experience has been limited to working in my church, after school programs, tutoring computer classes, but predominantly with children and young adults. Needless to say, I was nervous for my first meeting. I ended up chatting with several of my friends who are educators, and colleagues who have worked with adult learners. Where would I start? How do I manage not to belittle his intelligence and not assume that he knows certain things? Should I design this first meeting based on his intake form? What’s a realistic timeline to reach his overall goal of getting a GED?

Since there were so many different questions, I took some advice from one of our trainings: don’t plan a lesson. I decided that I would just talk to my student and get to know him. After all, the goal is to build a relationship. I brought the materials I received from ALL to the library so he could see what we are going to be working with. Once he showed up, I just asked him to tell me a little bit about himself. We went back and forth explaining our strengths and weaknesses in learning (hopefully he doesn’t feel like I’m incompetent for acknowledging so many), what brought us to Orlando, what sort of activities we enjoy, and most importantly, the reason why he has decided to take classes and learn how to read. Through this conversation, I found out that my student is very active in his church and is looking to be a minister. GREAT! Something to work with so we aren’t bored with workbooks and that what we are doing is relevant/useful. We decided that we would use workbooks, but he would bring his own materials from church so we can work with both.

The hour ended up going by very smoothly. I started out really nervous and fidgety, but once we started talking, we both were more relaxed and comfortable. We’ll see how it goes next week when we actually start working with the material, but for right  now, I feel comfortable and positive about this upcoming experience.

Erin Balleine: Americorps VISTA and Florida Literacy

As you may know, the Florida Literacy Coalition has partnered with AmeriCorps*VISTA to place VISTA volunteers in community based literacy organizations throughout the state.  AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) provides full-time members to nonprofit, community organizations, and public agencies to create and expand programs that ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.

AmeriCorps*VISTA members leverage human, financial, and material resources to increase the capacity of low-income communities across the country to solve their own problems.  Currently, VISTAs within our statewide project work on 3 main goals including:

  1. Financial Literacy
  2. College/Career Pathways
  3. At least one of the following
    1. Health Literacy
    2. Family Literacy
    3. Prison Re-entry
    4. GED/TOEFL readiness

VISTAs must work on the projects mentioned above, they must have a desk, computer and phone and have a full time supervisor.  Sites pay a $500 administrative fee to the Florida Literacy Coalition per year for a full time (35-40 hours a week) VISTA placement.

VISTAs are paid a small living stipend ($10,692) through the Corporation of National and Community Service and receive health care and their choice of a educational award worth $5550 or a $1500 cash award at the end of their service.

Our partnership with AmeriCorps*VISTA has been incredibly successful over the past 7 years.  Over the past year, statewide, our VISTAs have recruited over 1000 volunteers and solicited almost half a million dollars in cash and non-cash resources.  Organizations have benefited greatly from the services that a full time VISTA member has been able to provide to the organization and the community!

If you are interested in becoming a VISTA site, contact me at or 407-246-7110 X202.

You can also find more information about VISTA at or

Learning Disabilities

Unlike physical ailments, learning disabilities often go undetected because they are hard to see and many people do not understand the signs. They also differ from person to person, so two people can have the same disability, but different challenges. Learning disabilities can affect a someone’s listening, speaking, reading, writing and/or mathematics skills. As many as 1 out of 5 people in the United States has a learning disability. It is estimated that 27% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school, creating a need to address learning disabilities in adult learners. This fall, Florida Literacy Coalition is hosting a series of professional development workshops focused on Learning Disabilities. Here are a few words from one of our facilitators, Roberta Reiss.

Roberta Reiss

“Over the years I have worked with hundreds of capable and well-trained literacy tutors.  One refrain I heard quite often was, “I can’t help you with an adult learner with learning disabilities.  I just don’t have the expertise.”  It turns out that working with a learner with a reading or writing disability involves easy comprehension strategies that are just “good teaching”.  The FLC’s upcoming events on Learning to Achieve, a program based on the latest research, are designed to help volunteer tutors understand Learning Disabilities, learn about the legal protection offered those who have these disabilities, and examine teaching strategies that have proven success.  Of course, no one is expected to diagnose a disability or offer legal advice, but the program lays a great foundation for understanding the rights of adult learners with LD and seeing why the strategies work.  I hope you can attend one of the several sessions held around the state, and would love to see you at one of mine!

In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting websites to take a look at:

Hopefully you will be able to join us this fall at one of the statewide workshops. Click here for a full listing of locations and program descriptions.