Mid-State Literacy Council Celebrates 50th Anniversary
When Kulwinder Singh moved to the United States, he took three months of English, reading and writing lessons at the Mid-State Literacy Council. He also passed the US citizenship test with help from the Center County association, and a tutor from the organization recently helped him prepare for a job interview.
He is one of more than 10,000 students supported by MSLC, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month with a fundraising auction that ends on October 17th.
âI will always recommend Mid-State Literacy to everyone,â Singh said. “Whenever I had a question, they were always there.”
The MSLC was founded in 1971 by Ruth Kistler for the purpose of providing adult literacy classes in Center and Clearfield counties. Although services have changed over the years, the mission remains the same: to bring literacy in all its forms to adults.
Today, the MSLC focuses primarily on ESL courses, according to board chair Ann Echols. The MSLC offers basic adult literacy classes, but these needs are mainly met through GED programs offered at local high schools.
Probably the biggest change the MSLC has seen in its 50 years of operation came in 2011, when it lost government funding, which represented 95% of its budget. Executive Director Amy Wilson said the loss of funds meant the MSLC had grown from 400 to 500 students per year to 200.
But Wilson said it also allowed him to change focus and better meet the needs of the community.
âI know it’s really weird when your funding goes and you decide to expand your program,â Wilson said, but now that MSLC’s funding is community-based, âwhen you see a need you can fill it. “
In 2011, the MSLC focused on healthcare, a move that Wilson says literally saved the lives of students.
There are now health literacy courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced English speakers where students can learn to read directions on their medications, contact emergency services, and determine which health issues require a visit to the hospital. hospital.
One student, Wilson said, had appendicitis and went to the hospital for surgery after learning about appendicitis in her English class for doctor’s visits.
According to Echols, health literacy has only become a priority in the COVID-19 pandemic.
âWe now include a little bit of health care in every class,â Echols said, âbecause it’s so important for people to understand what a vaccine is, that it’s safe in America, how to navigate it. COVID (and) how to navigate to the doctor’s appointments in America.
Since 2011, the MSLC has also added computer literacy classes, English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test classes, and one-to-one lessons for those looking for work.
To support its programs, MSLC hosts a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, including the Ron and Mary Maxwell Community Spelling Bee. Proceeds from the 50th anniversary online auction – which includes more than 250 items including artwork, furniture, gift cards and more – will benefit the day-to-day operations of the MSLC.
âIt’s been a learning curve to figure out how to do it. But many community members and volunteers donated items, âsaid Connie Schroeder, MSLC volunteer.
Echols said the MSLC is very excited about the fiber arts collection from the estate of the late Professor David Van Dommelen of the Penn State School of Visual Arts, as well as Cindy Kostyak’s oil paintings and quilts. by Doug Marme.
The Van Dommelen collection is impressive and includes “beautiful wall hangings,” said Grace Hampton, professor at Penn State and former principal of Penn State’s School of Visual Arts.
âHe made an amazing piece (called MASH) that is done in green camouflage and there are words embedded in the (fabric),â said Hampton. “He actually put his nameplates in this painting, and some of the buttons and some of the metal on his uniform, (with) a question about why war is so necessary for people.”
MASH is on auction and is currently priced at $ 25. The rest of Van Dommelen’s pieces on auction range from $ 10 to $ 50.
Going forward, Echols said that the MSLC hopes to maintain its current size and hopefully grow, and she hopes that anyone who wants to access MSLC’s services can do so.
For Wilson, the future of MSLC means a greater focus on computer literacy. And whatever direction the organization takes, its leaders say community support remains vital.
âWe thank the community for supporting the program for 50 years, and we hope they will support us for another 50,â Wilson said.
For more information on the MSLC and to view the auction online, visit www.mid-stateliteracycouncil.org.