Students as Equal Partners

By Jennifer Wigginton

What do we get most out of a conference… is it the sharing of ideas, or perhaps the reassurance that someone else does a task the same as you or maybe it is truly learning a new way to inspire or to complete a task?

We went to the United States Conference on Adult Literacy (USCAL) because our student Darrell Murray was selected as the Dollar General Student of the Year and that was nothing short of inspiring. He inspired me the way he accepted the award, the way he shared his story with those he met and because he wasn’t afraid anymore for anyone to know he struggled with reading.

Absolutely without a doubt, there is a stigma in admitting you can’t read. I consider myself lucky because I’m part of Darrell’s story. He is one individual who sought help, received it and we are both better for it. That is part of the reason why I chose to attend the workshop, ‘Building Authentic Leadership Opportunities: Students as Equal Partners.’ The concept of leadership and citizenship should be brought to our programs for all our students to help build a better community.

Here are a few ideas:

• A Student Council- Peer pressure or peer influence, what a wonderful way for a student to be a part of the process.
• Alumni Participation- A buddy for a current student, mentorship, a support system.
• Advocacy- Sharing their story, being their own storyteller shares not only the organization that provided the help but the story of the literacy issue and why we must advocate for every adult learner to be able to tell their own story.

Thirty million adults in America struggle with reading and hide it as if it is a tragic contagious disease. It is not. Let’s be a part of their story.

Watch the recent television interview with Jennifer and Darrell!

Jennifer Wigginton
Executive Director, The Literacy Center
Evansville, IN