Greg Smith: An Ever Changing Landscape Makes Community Outreach and Advocacy More Important Than Ever

Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Florida Literacy Coalition

Thanks to all of you who were able to join me for our recent webinar on Community Outreach and Advocacy.    If you missed the session, it is still available to view on FLC’s website.

One of the themes that I tried to emphasize is the importance of being proactive in developing and communicating key messages that you want others to know about your program and the difference that you make in the lives of your adult learners.

It’s easy for communications and advocacy to take a back seat to the many other things that we need to get done on a day-to-day basis.  After all, investment of time and effort in this area doesn’t always produce immediate and recognizable benefits.  Literacy programs have always been under resourced and the downturn in the economy has made matters even worse.  Moreover, demand for services is still high with over 70% of Florida’s community-based literacy organizations reporting that they have waiting lists for instruction.

While it may be a challenge, it’s now more important than ever to make sure that our communities, including key decision makers, are aware of the work that we do.   This includes elected officials at the local, state and national level.  The legislative and political landscape is ever changing.  Even since our webinar, a bill has surfaced that could have a substantial impact adult literacy.

In Congress, H.R.3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, includes a provision that would require those seeking unemployment benefits to meet minimum education requirements in addition to work search requirements.  To meet these requirements, an individual would need to have earned a high school diploma or GED credential or other State-recognized equivalent. If one doesn’t have such a credential, he/she would need to be enrolled and making satisfactory progress in classes leading to a diploma, GED or its equivalent.  Under the bill, which has passed the House, these requirements can be waived by states if they are deemed to be unduly burdensome.

This is a good example of legislation that may have pros and cons depending on your perspective.  What would be the potential impact of such a law?  Would it create an additional demand for services, and if so, from where would the resources come to meet this demand?   Congress needs to hear from adult education and literacy practitioners on this issue.

This bill is also good example of legislation that, if passed, would provide an opportunity to let state policy makers know your thoughts on if and how such a provision should be implemented here in Florida.  You’re the experts and they need to know your thoughts on matters important to our field.  They should also hear from adult learners who may be impacted by such legislation.  Educate yourself on what you can do in an official capacity and what you may need to do as a private citizen.   The National Coalition for Literacy has good guidelines on what you can legally do.

With Florida’s legislative session just around the corner, this is a good time to stay informed, get plugged in and become actively engaged in the process.  We’ll try to keep you updated on significant new developments.

Here are some great national and state resources to keep you informed and/or engaged.


      National Coalition for Literacy
                Legislative Action Center
Advocacy Tool Kit


      National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) The Return on Investment (ROI) From Adult Education and Training.”


      Florida Senate,

      Florida House,

      ACE of Florida

      FLDOE, Career and Adult Education

      FLDOE, Statistics by Legislative District

      FLC, FL Data and Statistics Reference Guide

Top Stories in Literacy: December 19

23 Twitter Tools to help you Tweet like a pro
As Margaret Atwood reiterated last week, a presence on twitter is beneficial for your organization and for students. Here are some tips to help you start a twitter campaign.

Digital literacy can boost employability and improve student experience
The nature of knowledge is changing and, in this digital age, our definition of basic literacy urgently needs expanding. With an estimated 90% of UK jobs requiring some level of IT competency, the notion of digital literacy – those capabilities that equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society – is one that needs to be taken seriously by colleges and universities.

Florida law results in more denials of unemployment benefits
The House Republicans unveiled a proposal  (H.R. 3630) to dramatically scale back federal unemployment insurance. It included language that would deny unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who do not have a HS diploma or GED unless they are enrolled and making satisfactory progress in classes leading to one.

Study: Income, Not Race, May be the Biggest Predictor in Health Habits
We know that racial health disparities and differences exist, especially when it comes to weight, diet and exercise. Researchers from John Hopkins believe that income level better explains why these differences are so prevalent in the U.S.

Literacy Ambassador Program Highlights

Speeches, presentations and interviews, oh my!

The Florida Literacy Coalition (FLC) recently held it’s annual Literacy Ambassador Program in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.  During this 1.5-day training, adult learners participated in activities relevant to preparing speeches, presentations and interviews.  Now, Florida has 9 new Literacy Ambassadors that will be working hard to promote the importance of adult and family literacy!

Established Literacy Ambassadors Monica Nelson & Nelson Pino guided the adult learners through several lesson plans and tactics they can use to prepare for speaking engagements and media interviews.

Monica Baxley & Nelson Pino

Tammie Fields, WTSP Weekend Anchor

Tampa Bay’s Channel 10 TV anchor, Tammie Fields, visited the Ambassadors during their training and provided information on what it’s like to work with the media.  She also gave program representatives tips on gaining the attention of TV media professionals.  These tips included:

  • Send information to the media via email (using the “Contact Us” page of the website v. calling the newsroom)
  • Provide a hook – explain what makes your news/event important, timely and worth covering.  This can include an Ambassador’s peronal story/experience.
  • TV coverage requires video – it’s helpful if you have something (i.e. an event) that can be filmed or someone that is passionate about  your cause that can provide an interview with emotional appeal.  If going the interview route, offer to coordinate the interview for the reporter.

FLC couldn’t be more proud of the Literacy Ambassador class of 2010!  These students have accomplished amazing feats during their time in Central- and South Florida-based literacy and adult education programs.  We are excited these students are motivated to take on new leadership roles within their organizations and will be sharing their success stories, in their communities, to promote the adult literacy cause.

Literacy Ambassadors Class of 2010