It was an important day for the Augusta University Literacy Center as the ribbon was cut on its new location at The HUB for Community Innovation on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
For over 20 years, the Literacy Center has provided free instruction to students and adults, and now in a new home, the center is able to offer more opportunities to those looking to improve their reading skills.
The ceremony featured many of those who made the new center a reality, including the Community Foundation for the CSRA, the Boys & Girls Club of the CSRA and the Medical College of Georgia Foundation. The community hub was made possible from a $10 million donation from Augusta National Golf Club and its partners AT&T, Bank of America and IBM, as well as other federal grants.
Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, gave most of the credit for the center’s new home to Augusta National Golf Club.
“We would not be here without the generosity of Augusta National and their tremendous support,” said Keel. “We all know the impact Augusta National has had on the city of Augusta for many years, but they really have taken that to the next level.”
Betsy VanDeusen, PhD, Literacy Center director, said the whole goal of the center, and The HUB in general, is to bring services to the Laney Walker/Harrisburg community, an area that is generally lacking in resources.
“If you think of the governing principals of The HUB, to hear, to understand and belong, it’s important that this building is down here,” said VanDeusen.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was the presentation of a Reader’s Theater. Students of the Literacy Center, backed by their instructors, read Tug of War for those in attendance.
The center hasn’t had a permanent home for almost five years and this space feels like a “miracle” said Judi Wilson, PhD, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Wilson indicated the conversation about a permanent home started years ago, but having ANGC and others step up was the difference maker.
“Having a place to put your things and your instructional tools and to do training and to really just use as a home base is huge. We haven’t had that and to see so many community partners come together has just been such a blessing,” Wilson said.
The Literacy Center features a large learning room with SMART Boards, as well as more private instructional areas and a library. The furniture was specifically designed to meet the needs of the students. It also relies on many volunteers who help students during the day.
“It’s super gratifying because if students have been struggling with something and it’s really giving them a hard time, then when they finally get it and understand, it’s, ‘Oh wow, I can do this now,’” said Steve Huston, instructor at the Literacy Center.
The main learning room in the center is dedicated to the late Paulette Harris, PhD, the founder of the AU Literacy Center. A portrait of Harris also hangs in the lobby, as she was the true visionary of the center.
“I am just honored to be able to carry on the legacy of Dr. Harris,” added Wilson.
“She has meant so much to me personally and professionally. To be able to make some decisions to honor her legacy has just been one of the greatest blessing of my professional career.”
Congressman Rick Allen was also in attendance and through a program with the Library of Congress, over 230 books were donated to the Literacy Center. Allen serves on the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee and knows the importance of being able to read at a young age.
“If you’re not reading at a third-grade level when you finish the third grade, it’s likely you won’t finish high school. And if you don’t finish high school, it doesn’t end well. We don’t want to lose those kids,” Allen said.
The center is already serving the community, with a number of students and adults taking advantage of the instructors and the amenities being offered.
“It’s amazing because one of my favorite quotes is, ‘Reform and new initiatives are just spots of ink on paper until they are brought to life somewhere,’” added VanDeusen. “It means so much to see something that was an idea at a very basic level is now open and functioning with people. It really just warms my heart to see the people’s energy so this place just comes alive.”
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