Oregon Literacy Efforts Get Boost From $115,000 in Verizon Grants

PORTLAND, Ore. - Projects to improve literacy skills for Oregonians and support the lagging regional economy today received a total of $115,000 in funding from Verizon.

Sixteen nonprofit organizations were presented with checks for $95,000 in grants during a reception at a Verizon-sponsored national literacy conference in Portland. The recipients are from the Portland area, southern Oregon coast, and Wallowa County. Funding was provided by Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications.

"We want to provide an economic stimulus through our foundation giving that will help address the high unemployment and economic uncertainty facing the region," said John Gustafson, Verizon external affairs director for the Northwest. "We sought proposals that would help lead to a more educated and prepared work force by improving literacy rates."

Verizon also awarded $20,000 from its Check Into Literacy program to the new Oregon Reads coalition. The Check Into Literacy program is funded by voluntary contributions from Verizon customers who give $1 per month to literacy by checking off a box on their phone bill.

Oregon Reads will be administered by the Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Literacy, Inc. The new organization seeks to raise awareness of low literacy levels in Oregon, enlist volunteer tutors, and facilitate new funding opportunities to support literacy programs. Coalition partners include community colleges, public libraries, governmental agencies and others.

    Portland-area recipients of Verizon Foundation grants include:

  • Beaverton Education Foundation will use a $5,000 grant to provide mini-grants of $500 to $1,000 each for special literacy projects in the Beaverton School District. Mini-grants will be funded based on competitive proposals submitted by teachers during the 2003-04 school year. The proposals can be for computer literacy as well as basic reading and writing skill development.

  • Beaverton Literacy Council will use a $2,000 grant to train more volunteers, purchase books for volunteers and students, purchase basic teaching supplies, and develop at least four new tutoring sites for English language learners. The council has offered tutor-training workshops since 1983.

  • Centro Cultural in Cornelius will use a $15,000 grant to develop and conduct an innovative course that combines English as a second language (ESL), Adult Basic Education, General Equivalency Diploma preparation, and computer literacy for low-level ESL students who lack a high school diploma. The goal of the program is to guide students through the completion of a GED and help prepare them for living-wage jobs. Centro Cultural will partner with Portland Community College.

  • Catholic Charities in Gresham will use a $7,500 grant to conduct four, 12-week literacy classes to Spanish-speaking adults in the Portland metropolitan area to help improve their job skills. The classes are expected to serve about 60 adult students. In addition, the agency will use grant funds to recruit volunteers and organize and coordinate a volunteer literacy-tutoring program.

  • Clackamas Community College Foundation will use a $2,000 grant for its Living Literacy project, which focuses on real-life skills such as work skills, technology skills, citizenship and parenting. Living Literacy will provide books and materials to about 150 persons who need assistance with reading, writing, math, life skills, citizenship and learning English.

  • The Forest Grove Library Foundation will use a $5,000 grant to improve literacy skills for the large number of Hispanic immigrants from Central and South America who have recently moved to Oregon. Funding will help Forest Grove Library officials purchase literacy materials in both Spanish and English. Materials include information on English instruction, job skills, curriculum support, parenting, citizenship and academic achievement.

  • The Oregon Children's Foundation received $5,000 to underwrite a fund-raising breakfast for OCF's Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) program, which serves children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. The event raised more than $80,000 to help fund SMART in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties and build a solid financial foundation for future expansion. OCF's goal is to serve every qualifying school that wants the program.

  • As the hub of the newly launched Oregon Reads literacy coalition, Oregon Literacy will use a $10,000 grant to expand the assistance it offers to volunteer tutors across Oregon and southwest Washington. Central to this effort is the Tutor HelpLine, a comprehensive source of information and resources to volunteer tutors.

  • The Oregon Trail Education Foundation in Sandy will use an $8,000 grant to continue the Verizon Literacy Camp it started at Cottrell Elementary in the Oregon Trail School District this school year. The program integrates literacy and technology to meet the academic needs of high-risk, kindergarten through 5th grade students at Cottrell. The camp uses research-based strategies in an environment conducive to meeting the needs of an often under-served population.

  • Self Enhancement Inc. of Portland will use a $10,000 grant to raise achievement levels for inner-city students by increasing the academic rigor of its structured tutorial time. An academic reading specialist for SEI's after-school program will develop a comprehensive reading module for 30 students from Boise Eliot Elementary School.

  • The Mt. Hood Literacy Coalition will use a $2,000 grant to support and promote literacy to adults in the Portland/East Multnomah County area. The agency will purchase books and supplies for various tutoring session sites. Other grant funds will be used to advertise coalition services, provide resources to the community and support outreach efforts.

    Oregon coastal recipients of Verizon grants include:

  • Coos County Literacy Council will use a $2,500 grant to reestablish literacy programs in the Brookings/Harbor and Gold Beach/Port Orford areas of Curry County. By expanding its reach in these rural areas, the organization plans to help children and families achieve critical reading and thinking skills and develop a love of reading. The overall goal is to lower the area's illiteracy rate, which is now about 18 to 20 percent.

  • The Friends of the Coos Bay Library will use a $3,000 grant to help the library focus on assisting children with low reading skills - especially middle school students who can benefit from additional motivation and assistance before reaching high school. Grant funding will provide new books and materials. The Rx for Readers project also includes outreach efforts to day care centers and Head Start classrooms.

  • The SWOYA Boys & Girls Club in Coos Bay will use a $10,000 grant to expand its computer literacy program to help ensure that disadvantaged youth have the technology skills they need to succeed in school. The Core Tech component integrates technology into five core program areas emphasized by the Boys & Girls Club of America, two of which are education and career development and character and leadership development. Core Tech helps students improve their academic skills and choose behaviors that will help them become successful adults.

    Wallowa County recipients of Verizon grants include:

  • The Enterprise School District will use a $4,000 grant for its Successful Early Readers project to help ensure students are reading at grade level in each of the four primary grades. Enterprise teachers will partner with the kindergarten through 3rd grade staff at Joseph School District, which has implemented a reading program where almost every student is meeting or exceeding the third-grade Oregon benchmarks for reading. The Verizon grant will stock classroom libraries and the main school library with books and provide materials for guided reading and for skills practice.

  • The Joseph School District will apply a $4,000 Verizon grant to its Sustainable Reading program, to provide a greater range and depth of learning for students while continuing to improve student reading achievement. The grant will add books to the school libraries, especially titles for teen-age boys, nonfiction, books for emergent readers and multiple copies of books by the most popular authors.

Verizon is committed to being America's literacy champion. The company is conducting a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support of literacy programs for adults, children and families. Working under the banner of Verizon Reads, a private charity, the award-winning philanthropy program reaches out to the nearly 40 million Americans who have low literacy skills. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.VerizonReads.net. For help with literacy, call the National Institute for Literacy toll-free at 1-866-772-READ.

Verizon Communications

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 136.6 million access line equivalents and 33.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third-largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 13.2 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 227,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.