A year ago, the excitement was about the Augusta University Literacy Center opening its doors at the HUB for Community Innovation. Now, it’s about all it has accomplished and adding to the services it already provides to the community.
Its three goals of providing literacy instruction, community engagement and cultural programming remain the same, and the center approaches each day trying to reach those goals.
Betsy VanDeusen, PhD, director of the Literacy Center, is pleased with the direction of the center. She feels like the center has everything in place to assist the school-age population and is now working to better serve the adult population. She said they didn’t want to assume what those needs might look like.
“We are letting it happen organically by engaging and listening to our adult clients and then seeing what specific needs come up,” said VanDeusen.
One way was to partner with Augusta Technical College. That partnership features Augusta Tech educators coming to the Literacy Center, offering GED and adult literacy classes to the community.
The center also found a need for drop-in hours to allow clients who may need help with activities like filling out forms a chance to do so. It’s also used to find out exactly how they can help.
“We’re getting a lot more calls for adult literacy. We’ve had a couple of clients who haven’t known exactly what they want or need, and we use the drop-in hours to sort out their best next steps for the short and longer term,” she said.
The center is also offering digital literacy assistance, where volunteers help those looking to use technology to their advantage.
VanDeusen understands making the call to the Literacy Center is a huge first step, especially for adults.
“With adults, it’s about their needs. With school-age kids, we know they need to read, and that’s a little different,” she said. “That’s where the drop-in sort of helps us decide how we can help them.”
Having a good relationship with the Richmond County School System has played a large role in the increase of students the center is seeing. The two have a data-sharing agreement so the Literacy Center can see where students are and how they can help get them to grade level on their school assessment.
Tutoring can play a huge role in that, and VanDeusen wanted to make sure the support they were offering lined up with what the school district needed.
“We put them in a program that we use, we see progress in that program, but it also lets us see if it is translating to real work in the classroom,” she said.
The Literacy Center, together with RISE Augusta and the Jessye Norman School of Arts, is wrapping up three weeks of camps for kids ranging in age from 6 to 12. Other HUB partners are also participating, with Harrisburg Family Health Care providing a first aid class for campers and Augusta Locally Grown helping them make their own nutritious lunch. The camps were designed to give kids more summer programming for free.
“There’s just a really good synergy of all the partners at the HUB and in the community, just like it was intended. One partner may be the lead on an activity, but everybody is taking part,” VanDeusen said.
Part of the activities included dance, literacy and theater, and each session ended with a performance. Engaging the kids that align with the center’s three goals has been the aim, and they’ve hit a bull’s-eye in the process.
“We’re very pleased. Kids are happy,” said VanDeusen. “Over the course of the week, good friendships start to develop. It’s so rewarding to hear kids telling their parents all the things they did during the day, and parents are reporting that the kids are happy to be here, so we’ve been very pleased.”