Participant Biographies - Learning Leadership April 18 - May 2nd 2005

Learner Leadership Participant Biographies

William Grant, VALUE National Trainer, Director of Education for Voz, Inc., a
statewide professional development provider for New Mexico Adult Education,
and Co-founder of BLAST, New Mexico's student leadership project

The VALUE Core Leadership training ( has a project template
for teacher training that we wrote based on BLAST system for students teaching

For the past nine years, student leaders from BLAST have been involved in
teacher training in New Mexico. They have lead workshops for ABE teachers at
our state conference, regional professional development workshops and program

BLAST students present student perspectives on the ABE classroom. Their goal
is to give teachers understanding of who adult students are, where they come
from, and how that affects the classroom. They talk about teaching
methodologies, communication between students and teachers and classroom
dynamics. The issues range from the tiny details of making students
comfortable to the difference between teaching kids and teaching adults.

Teachers in New Mexico have loved it. It gives them a chance to talk in-depth
with students about their questions about teaching adults. BLAST's teacher
training workshops lets teachers hear from students who have had the time to
think deeply about their education, and the training to put their thoughts
into words.

VALUE created its Core Student Leadership training through a three year
process. It was created from the best practices of student leadership from
across the US, student leaders with a decade of experience at the national
level, World Education, and Union workplace initiatives. The training was
co-designed with a nationally recognized curriculum designer. After that, we
pilot tested it 5 states and then spent 6 more months on development. Finally,
it was re-written by experts in easy-reader formats and plain language who had
worked for New Readers Press. The training has been implemented in
Massachussetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Washington D.C.,
and Vermont.

Will Grant has spent 15 years learning from student leaders. He co-founded the
BLAST project in New Mexico with men and women from ESL, GED, and Literacy
classes. Working as a collective, BLAST has spent the past 9 years training
student leaders and working with educators to integrate student voice into
ABE. Student leadership is has reached every level of the ABE system in New
Mexico, from the classroom up to the state level. Students have positions on
the statewide policy board and in the professional development system. They
run several projects including:

  • Nuestras Voces -- a spanish language leadership project);
  • The Welfare-to-Work Peer Mentors program
  • The Social Impact Theater -- where students write and perform plays based on
    their lives
  • The Student Voice Network -- a statewide system of students and teachers in
    22 ABE programs that has co-created student leadership curricula, trainings,
    videos, and action research projects.

In 2001, Will helped found Voz, inc, a non-profit organization that supports
BLAST and other projects that develops the voice of people and communities
that are not usually heard in our society. Voz is funded as a .223 leadership
provider for the New Mexico ABE system.

Ernest Best, Executive Director, Massachusetts Alliance for Adult Literacy
(Mass AAL).

The Massachusetts Alliance for Adult Literacy (Mass AAL) is an organization
formed by current and former students of adult literacy programs, including
Adult Basic Education, ESOL, and GED. Mass AAL is funded by the Massachusetts
Department of Education, Adult and Community Learning Services. The VALUE
training was utilized to internally strengthen our organization (Mass AAL).
Their was some work done to build student leadership in Massachusetts at the
regional level. For more information about Mass AAL, visit:

Ernest is a graduate of an adult literacy program at a community-based
organization in Boston, Massachusetts. He subsequently attended the University
of Massachusetts at Boston, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), graduating with highest honors with degrees in Management & Human
Services. Ernest is currently the Executive Director of the Massachusetts
Alliance for Adult Literacy and plays a role in leadership development for the
adult learner and public policy. In addition, Ernest is the co-founder and
Director of the Boston Adult Literacy Fund's African-American Men's Project.
This program combines the best practices of Adult Basic Education with the
latest in job and life-skills training and has received national recognition.
Ernest also hosts a local radio talk show in Boston.

Sally Gabb, Director of SABES SE (System for Adult Basic Education Southeast).
Sally serves as the SABES liaison to Mass AAL, the Massachusetts Alliance for
Adult Literacy.

The Massachusetts Alliance for Adult Literacy (Mass AAL) attended the VALUE
training as a team. We used the process to continue building our Mass AAL
goals: to develop the Board of Directors for the organization, and to build
regional student leadership teams through Mass AAL. Typing 'student
leadership' into the website brings up a collection of links and
resources on student leadership.

I have worked in Adult Basic Education for more than 30 years, continuing to
learn from learners about the strengths, potential and energies of adult
learners. I taught ABE and GED classes for 13 years, worked as curriculum
education director in a variety of community based ABE programs for 13 years ,
and have focused on professional development for the last four years. For me,
adult basic education is a process of educational dialogue and sharing in
which learners should be partners in creating the most dynamic and effective

Stephen Hanley, Executive Director, W.A.I.T.T. House, Inc., Roxbury,
Massachusetts. For 20 years, the WAITT House program has involved learner
leadership at every level: volunteer, student advisory council, internship,
staff, community activism, and the governing level.

About W.A.I.T.T. House:

"In 1979, Sisters of Charity from Boston's Saint Patrick's School and
neighborhood residents vowed that "We're All In This Together " as they
dedicated themselves to providing essential services to the people. The
philosophy-- and the name-- seemed right, and W.A.I.T.T. House has been
offering its participants opportunities to improve their lives and their
communities for 23 years. Since 1983, when Barbara Bush visited W.A.I.T.T.
House to inaugurate the Boston Adult Literacy Initiative, its central focus
has been providing quality adult education. Its current offerings include
Adult Basic Skills, Boston's External Diploma Program, Financial Literacy,
Career Awareness, Computer Literacy, Counseling and Support Services, as well
as community and lifeskills projects developed by our student advisory
council. We are particularly proud of our newest programs: Diploma Plus (a
transition to college component), WOW! (Women of W.A.I.T.T. House), and the
AAMEN support group for male participants.

W.A.I.T.T. House's mission is to bring adults from different cultures together
to bring about positive change-- for themselves, their families, and their
neighborhoods. Its participants reflect the multi-racial, multi-ethnic,
multi-lingual population that embodies Boston's Roxbury and Dorchester
communities. W.A.I.T.T. House is a full-time day program (9:00 AM-1:00 PM)
serving more than 120 participants a year. It has produced 385 high school
graduates through Boston Public Schools' External Diploma Program, the highest
number of graduates among adult literacy programs in Boston, and has
maintained a 96% placement rate of its graduates into college, jobs, or skills

Benika Pierce, Learner Leader, Literacy Council of Tyler (LCOT), Texas. Benika
co-developed M.O.M.S.( Motivating Other Mothers for Success), a support group
designed to create an encouraging community for moms attending GED classes and
cultivate learner leaders. She has attended LCOT for the past 8 months, and
has passed 3 parts of her GED and is studying to take the remaining two tests.
"The literacy council opened the door for me to start an internship at the
local TV station. I plan to attend college in order to become an anchor for a
television station."


Angela Childers, Case Manager/Instructor, Literacy Council of Tyler (LCOT),
Texas. Angela served on a team with adult learners in developing M.O.M.S.
Angela joined LCOT 2 years ago working with TANF eligible students, and is
involved in enrollment and case management of students.

About M.O.M.S. and LCOT:

We have developed a support group to create an encouraging community for moms
that are attending GED class. The support group is called M.O.M.S. that is an
acronym for Motivating Other Mothers for Success. The objective of the group
is to encourage each other to get their GED and to realize the potential they
have to meet job and personal goals after they get their GED. We are
developing leaders from this group that do smaller projects when they have the
time to dedicate to a project.

The Literacy Council Of Tyler started in 1990 and serves 2,700 students
annually. Currently we have 300 volunteers and 57 staff members.

Pixie Hankinson, Executive Director of Vermont Adult Learning, a private
nonprofit that holds the contract with the State Department of Education to
provide consistent, comprehensive adult education and literacy services
statewide. We subcontract with three other regional providers and have named
the statewide system "Learning Works". That name will appear on the signs in
front of all ten full-service centers and satellite centers across Vermont.

For over ten years, Vermont Adult Learning (VAL) has had local student
advisory boards and a statewide student advisory board (SSAB) that reports
directly to the Executive Director. The Chair of the SSAB serves on the VAL
Board of Directors.

VAL, with the financial support of the State Department of Education, has sent
at least two students to every VALUE national meeting since its inception. Two
years ago we sent 9 students to their meeting in Florida and took 12 students
to their meeting in D.C. last month.

Students and teachers have been so inspired by these meetings that we invited
VALUE to provide a leadership training in Vermont last Fall. Teachers and
students alike agreed that it was an exceptional training.

VAL fully supports the concept of learner leadership and has committed staff
and additional financial resources to ensure that we are able to successfully
implement local student advisory boards in all of our full-service centers. We
believe absolutely that the key to improved student recruitment, retention,
and outcomes is engaged student leadership supported by staff.

VALUE has been a great resource. One of our student leaders now serves on the
VALUE Board of Directors.

Judy Healey-Schmidt, OAASIS (Organization of Adult Alumni and Students in
Servive) worker. Judy acts in a program advisory capacity, assisting
students, instructors, and program administrators in day-to-day activities.


Meredith Lewis, OAASIS (Organization of Adult Alumni and Students in Servive)
Advisor, Deleware. Meredith coordinates events and provides support to OAASIS
workers. OAASIS is the statewide student organization which links current
students with their peers.

We are implementing the VALUE Leadership Training in the planning of our
activities. We plan a conference for all adult learners in the state in which
we offer conferences, a key-note speaker, and have an award ceremony
celebrating students' accomplishments. We also have a legislative dinner
where we invite all of our legislators and students to attend so that students
may share their stories with their senator or representative.

The Organization of Adult Alumni and Students in Service ! (OAASIS) is a
statewide organization which links current students with their peers. OAASIS
workers provide assistance to adult education students in many ways including
tutoring, transportation, and encouragement.

OAASIS has a website which goes more in-depth on the services we provide.: These services are enabled by the training
we received from VALUE. The OAASIS workers are finding that they are leaders
and are therefore able to show their students that they are/can be leaders

Daniel Behnke, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, Florida Literacy Coalition. Daniel works in collaboration with adult learners to increase leadership opportunities for adult learners in Florida.

The Florida Literacy Coalition works closely with VALUE to improve adult learner leadership in our state. Last November, VALUE held their National Core Learner Leadership training in Orlando. This training was attended by forty adult learners and program managers. The FLC hopes to continue to offer this training in future years.

Established in 1985, the Florida Literacy Coalition promotes, supports and advocates for the effective delivery of quality adult and family literacy services in the state of Florida. As a statewide umbrella literacy organization and the host of Florida's Adult and Family Literacy Resource Center, FLC provides a range of services to support more than 300 adult education, literacy and family literacy providers throughout Florida. Special
emphasis is placed on assisting community-based literacy organizations with their training and program development needs.

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