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Governor Bush, Florida Olympians Become Verizon 'Literacy Champions'

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and four Olympic athletes will serve as Verizon "Literacy Champions," a national program that

enlists celebrities to raise awareness of literacy and encourages volunteers to become involved in local literacy programs.

At the same time, Verizon Foundation is giving a $250,000 grant to the Governor's Family Literacy Initiative, a program designed to raise awareness of the

importance of literacy and to fund family literacy programs throughout the state.

Gov. Bush, whose family is well known for its support of literacy, is emphasizing the need for Floridians to take an active role in supporting family literacy. He is

featured, along with four Olympians, on a new Verizon Literacy Champions poster promoting literacy.

"I am truly pleased to be a Verizon Literacy Champion and to be affiliated with a company that places such a high priority on literacy," said Gov.

Bush. "The variety of literacy programs that will be offered in Florida will set a standard of quality learning that can be replicated as we move to implement

our Family Literacy Initiative statewide."

In addition to the governor, the poster features Al Oerter, discus gold medallist; Mercedes Tatum, 5-year-old Olympic hopeful; Theresa Manuel, 1948 Olympic

hurdler, and Brooke Bennett, swimming gold medallist. Forty thousand posters featuring the Literacy Champions will be circulated in Florida by Verizon Reads,

to encourage both volunteers and funding for the Family Literacy Initiative.

"Literacy is the key to all education," said John Blanchard, president-southeast region for Verizon. "We welcome the governor and our

Olympians to the Literacy Champion program as we continue our efforts to encourage and foster literacy."

Verizon is committed to being America's Literacy Champion through a national campaign aimed at raising community awareness, increasing funding and

supporting a diverse range of adult, child and family literacy programs. Working under the banner of Verizon Reads, a public charity, the program is designed to reach out to the nearly 40 million Americans who have serious problems with literacy skills across all sectors of the United States. In 1999, Verizon Reads won the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership.

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 nearly 109 million access line equivalents and more than 27.5 million wireless customers. Verizon

is also the world's largest provider of print and online directory information. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 260,000 employees and more than $63

billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon,