The All American Gateway Region Workforce Collaborative, comprised of four Workforce Development Boards and the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance, held its third annual Lifelong Learning and Literacy summit recently at the Wicker Civic Center in Sanford.
The summit was part of a region-wide effort to help residents of Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland counties remove negativity from their lives and increase literacy and skill levels for fuller benefit from BRAC-induced employment and economic growth.
“The summit was addressing the need for us to work together to improve literacy rates across the region,” said Sharon Johnson, who attended the summit on behalf of Richmond County Public Schools.
“It reinforced the importance of early literacy,” said Mamie LeGrand, program coordinator evaluator for Richmond County Partnership for Children.
During the five hour event, more than 100 attendees representing all 11 counties and many education, training and workforce development entities plus private-sector businesses heard from the collaborative officials, the campaign manager, service providers and key representatives from organizations involved in educational learning.
“The purpose of the summit was to bring more attention to the fact that we have a problem with literacy rates in our areas,” said Jennipher Love, who attended the summit as a representative from Richmond Community College. “In Richmond and Scotland counties, the illiteracy rate is close to 30 percent for the 18 and over population,” said Love.
The goal of the third annual gathering was to share information and ideas, and encourage individuals and providers to increase their education and job training offerings even more to help residents overcome barriers to personal and career satisfaction.
“The goal of the umbrella social cause awareness campaign — Get ‘Not’ Out of Your Life — is to help change attitudes about education and to increase the respect for, appreciation of and, indeed, the reverence for and relevance of lifelong learning from womb to tomb,” said Shana Overdorf, campaign manager for the All American Workforce Region Collaborative.
“What I believe we need is a summit to address real strategies we can employ to address the literacy problem,” said Love.
One of the strategies already under way at RCC is the opportunity for community members to take all GED adult basic skills classes for free.
The summit included a call to action — advising that the 11-county region needs more literacy councils, a related foundation or consortium of them and an even greater alignment, integration and transformation of pre-K-20 programs.
While summit leaders are busy calling others to action, some active members in Richmond County take the initiative to act on their own.
“During the summer, I like to go out and talk to people about the free or low-cost opportunities we offer at the college,” said Love. “I can always find people to talk to — at convenience stores, fairs — anywhere.”
LeGrande said the Partnership for Children has already been making strides toward addressing the literacy issue at a much earlier age.
“We have partnered with Dr. Ahdieh’s office in Rockingham,” she said. “Every child six months to 5 years old gets an age-appropriate book at each wellness visit to the pediatrician’s office.”
All presentations that were made at the summit will be available on both the Bragg Alliance and All American Gateway Workforce Region Collaborative websites.
The Fort Bragg Regional Alliance — formerly the BRAC Regional Task Force — is a partnership of local governments, incorporated as a non-profit 501(c) (6), consisting of the 11 counties and 74 municipalities impacted by the growth at Fort Bragg. This partnership is planning and preparing for the significant physical and human infrastructure impact on our communities due to the changes that will occur from the BRAC 2005 actions. For more information on the Bragg Alliance, visit the website at www.bracrtf.com.
BRAC region workforce development programs are initiated and administered on the local level by Workforce Development Boards (WDBs). This comprehensive workforce investment system brings together the resources that individuals, employers and workforce professionals need to prosper in the new global economy, resulting in increased employment, higher earnings, strong educational and occupational skills, and more competitive businesses. For more information on WDBs or the regional workforce collaborative (Lumber River, Triangle South, Cumberland and Regional Partnership WDBs), visit www.allamericangateway.com.