Verizon Literacy Grants Spell Progress For Oregon Nonprofits

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, today awarded $120,759 in literacy grants to eight nonprofit organizations in Oregon.

The grants were presented during a Verizon celebration of literacy at McKinley Elementary School in Beaverton. The celebration featured Hollywood screenwriter and Portland-area resident Mike Rich, author of "Finding Forrester and "The Rookie." Rich visited classrooms and read to a group of children participating in the SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) program. During the event, Verizon donated a book and bookmark to each of the 540 children at McKinley Elementary.

"Verizon is committed to improving literacy through grants like these that support programs to improve reading, writing and computer skills," said Bob Wayt, Verizon external affairs manager for Oregon. "By improving literacy in Oregon, we can make a positive difference in the lives of our customers and the communities we serve."

Money for one of the grants, a $21,918 gift to Oregon Literacy Inc., came from the company's Oregon customers who participated in Verizon's Check Into Literacy program. The program enables Verizon customers to contribute $1 monthly through their phone bills to Verizon Reads, a public charity dedicated to literacy. Verizon redirects every dollar donated through "Check Into Literacy" to literacy projects, usually in the state where the money was given.

Verizon today awarded grants to the following organizations:

  • Portland Community College will use a $25,000 grant for a pilot project to streamline its English as a Second Language services, add computer literacy assessment and track student placement across the college. The pilot project will be conducted in western Washington County because of its fast-growing Hispanic population. Primary partner will be Centro Cultural in Cornelius, a nonprofit organization serving Hispanics. PCC's goal is to help more non-English speakers access services to increase their language and computer skills, leading to continued education and higher wage jobs.

  • Oregon Children's Foundation, based in Portland, will use a $25,000 grant to fund its SMART program for 100 children. SMART is a statewide book and reading program for kindergarten through third-grade children who are at risk of low literacy. SMART matches one adult volunteer with two at-risk children during the school year. The adult meets and reads one-on-one with each child for 30 minutes each week. In addition, SMART provides each student with two books per month to help build their personal libraries.

  • Oregon Trail Education Foundation, serving the Sandy School District, will use a $23,341 grant at Cottrell Elementary School for a pilot project that integrates literacy and technology to serve at-risk students in grades K-5. Called the Verizon Literacy Camp, the project starts this month. It will be offered through the district's summer school program and will continue during the regular school year. Literacy campers will be organized into small groups daily for reading lessons. Computers and other literacy tools will be used to guide student development.

  • Oregon Literacy Inc., based in Portland will use its $21,918 Check Into Literacy grant to raise public awareness of the adult literacy problem in Oregon and the options available to those who need help. Currently, one in five adult Oregonians is functioning at the lowest level of literacy, according to research. A promotional campaign will be designed and implemented to increase funding and volunteer support of adult literacy programs. It will also help ensure that every adult who needs help knows there is a literacy program nearby.

  • Self Enhancement Inc. in Portland will use a $10,000 grant to support its Computer Education Center, which offers a comprehensive computer literacy curriculum to students in grades 2-12. The center's goal is to increase computer literacy among inner-city Portland youth to help them succeed as students and job seekers. Students get instruction and practical experience in hardware and software applications, computer-assisted education, information science, and computer-related careers.

  • Beaverton Education Foundation will use a $7,500 award to provide mini-grants of $500-1,000 each for special literacy projects in the Beaverton School District. Mini-grants will be funded based on competitive proposals submitted by teachers during the 2002-03 school year. The proposals can be for computer literacy as well as basic reading and writing skill development. These opportunities for students would otherwise not be possible due to district funding limitations.

  • Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation will use a $5,000 grant to buy sets of books to complement classroom instruction at the new Hogan Cedars Elementary School. For example, a 5th grade class studying ancient Egypt could read a novel relevant to Egypt, such as "The Magnificent Mummy Maker." Students will read the books in small groups at their instructional level, as guided by their teachers. One of the primary goals is to introduce students to a variety of literature to enhance ideas and knowledge in both reading and writing.

  • Friends of the Coos Bay Public Library will use a $3,000 grant to help make library services more accessible to Latinos in the Coos Bay area. The library will expand its collections for Latinos and provide transportation to library programs for Latino children and families. The primary goal is to reach more Spanish-speaking Latinos with low literacy skills. Another objective is to provide materials to help more Spanish-speaking natives learn and become literate in English.

Verizon Foundation is committed to helping Verizon employees, customers and the communities in which they work and live make progress every day. The foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, bridging the digital divide, enriching communities through technology and creating a skilled work force. The foundation promotes partnerships in technology with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, and persons who are economically and socially disadvantaged. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that encourages Verizon employees to volunteer in their communities and provides matching gifts to nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

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 133.8 million access line equivalents and approximately 29.6 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and nearly 248,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.