The Gift of Goals

IMG_1737Today, I had my first live audience. I read a page from Tuesday’s with Morrie in front of Jenn. I have never read to anyone, other than my tutors.

Four years ago I walked into The Literacy Center barely able to read a billboard or restaurant menu. As a child, doctors told my mother that I would never have the capability of other children; they said I would never learn. Now, I hunger for books. Words are the only cure for my thirst. Knowledge is what sustains me.

As I exited the dusty doors of my public education, I felt that I had accomplished all I could. The bright doors of The Literacy Center opened and guided me to my new life of today. Though I may never walk through the hallow halls of Harvard or Yale, my walk through The Literacy Center is all I really need for my life to be fulfilled.

Though I will be retiring from my job in 14 months, my life is not coming to an end. It is just the beginning. My goals are to obtain my high school equivalency and become a tutor for The Literacy Center. I also want to help in The Literacy Lab; to lead my brothers and sisters from their dark halls to the brightness of literacy.  I desire to give back what The Literacy Center has given me—a chance at greatness.

So with this season of giving, if you know an adult who struggles with reading, give them a hug and tell them that you know a place they can turn. It’s a place that will help guide them from the darkness of illiteracy, and into the brightness of knowledge.


By Darrell Murray

At The Literacy Center, Who Really Does the Giving?

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

When I tell people what I do for a living the response is almost always the same—“Oh, it must be so rewarding to give back to the community like that.” I guess that’s one way to look at it. Personally, I think I’m lucky to have the opportunity to have our students give me so much.

Today, I witnessed a student face one of his biggest fears. To see him accomplish a goal he never thought possible helped me realize that students give me so much more than I give them. Our students constantly give:

Trust- In order for the relationship between us and a student to be successful, a student has to trust us to help them judgment free. Many times our students have faced constant ridicule for their lack of reading skills. To give trust so freely is truly a gift.

Time- We ask our students to establish a new routine to face an incredible challenge. Our students walk in the door without knowing how much they will learn, or if we will really help them reach their goals. Yet, week after week, they continue to give us their time. This also builds on the trust factor. They trust that we will help them, so they continue to give us their time.

Devotion- Students come here ready to learn, but uncertain of the results. However, they devote their time and energy to not only the program, but to us as individuals. The devotion given to us is a priceless gift beyond measure.

Fulfillment- My job is perhaps the best job in the world. I get to work with the most amazing group of people; donors, volunteers, staff, supporters, and especially students. As much as I enjoy my time with volunteers and supporters, it pales in comparison to my time with students. The warm fuzzy feeling I get when a student grasps a concept is second to none. When a student achieves something, like the student today, it makes my heart swell. Not because I helped him get to where he is, but because he got there, and I had the pleasure to be a part of it.

To each of our students, supporters, and volunteers, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the gifts each of you give me.


jennwigginton (2)December is a month for GIVING.  We each have our own significant way to give.  Some give their time, and talents and some give money and others give gifts. What is best about Giving?  Is it the warm and fuzzy feeling you get?  Is it the emotional connection made? Is it the #PayItForward that is special; or possibly the #RandomActsofKindness that makes our heart skip a beat?    When I think of GIVING…







As we each celebrate the season in our own way, my wish for you is that you have meaning for the season and your GIVING.

An Attitude of Gratitude am grateful for each day of my life. I hope you feel the same way about every day of your life. I have found that if I adhere to a plan of recording blessings that occur during the day, I feel much rewarded by the end of the evening.
It is actually quite simple. Start with two or three good things to be grateful about. Some people record all of the nice things! You can gradually see how you can not only become more grateful for the previous day’s events, but more and more optimistic about your future in general.
Let me give you a personal example. At the beginning of this year I began my lessons at The Literacy Center in the computer lab. Soon I was writing brief summaries of books and articles. I even wrote my first blog for The Literacy Center in September. How very grateful I am to have had this opportunity.
Just start thinking about your own personal goals or dreams. Write down what strides you are making and you will be grateful as your dreams come closer to actualization. An attitude of gratitude can come in smaller steps each day. Show your love for your spouse, child, or even a pet. By doing something special for him or her, I guarantee that he or she will be more likely to be grateful, and show that gratitude in return.
Or, put a smile on your face: I assure you it can only help. People will smile back, for the most part, and you will feel better all day for this small effort. It may be a stretch, but I think thankfulness to God, or your Maker, or the Universal Spirit, makes us all feel grateful just to be alive. As a dialysis patient, I feel especially so.
So, do one good deed each day, or even, one good deed each hour. The feelings of everyday hustle-and-bustle will likely be replaced with feelings of peace and gratitude. I have found this to be true in my life—and I wish this for each of you, each and every day.


A Memory

jennwigginton (2)I wrote the first week about what I’m thankful for in my personal life and my life here at The Literacy Center; this morning I was reading an article and it hit me, I’m thankful for being able to read.  I don’t remember the moment I began to read or the moment I knew what reading was all about and I’m thankful for that.  I’m thankful because I think it means that it wasn’t a difficult process for me.  I think this because I listen to the stories our students tell me and I hear phrases like…

I struggled,

I didn’t get it,

It was hard,

I remember others picking on me.

I wish that I could change the memories of our student’s from that time of struggling to learn to read but I know I can’t.  But, I can help them make new memories of overcoming the reading difficulties.  I correct that, we can.  If you are thankful you can read then help our students make new memories of learning to read and help them discover the joy and pleasure it brings to life.  There are many ways to do this… Volunteer, Give and Share.  The volunteer application is here.  To give click here. The share button is in your heart and I know you know what to do with it.

Thankful for Our Students

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

We are coming upon the time of year to reflect on things for which we are thankful. One thing that I am extremely grateful for is our students; something that I don’t express often enough.

Many times our students express to us that they are thankful that we are here. Yet we don’t tell our students thanks nearly enough. There are many, many reasons why I’m thankful for our students, but perhaps the overwhelming reason is that they teach me so much.

Yes, you read that correctly. Our students teach us. Sometimes, it is intentional, and other times they have no idea that they are teaching me!

Allow me to introduce you to a few students who have taught me:

We have a student, “Mark,” who has a goal of being a personal trainer. In our lessons we work on lots of vocabulary and study for the AFTA certification tests. I’m lucky that my sister is a personal trainer, so I have a great reference to help me with lessons. Before working with “Mark,” my knowledge about personal training was average. Now I think I may be able to identify quite a few muscle groups and how particular food additives affect our bodies. This is something I probably would not have bothered to learn about if it were not for “Mark.” Because of his interests and goals, I now can make better decisions regarding my personal health. So, “Mark,” I am thankful for you.

Another young student of ours, “Melanie,” is also a student at Ivy Tech. “Melanie” will bring in her homework and ask for help. In order for me to help her critique an article, I must read that article. The articles “Melanie” chooses range in topics, and I can say that I probably would never voluntarily read any of the articles she has brought me, yet I am always intrigued by them once I get involved. While helping her understand what the article is saying, we end up asking more questions about the topic. Together, we turn to the internet to find our answers. “Melanie,” thank you for helping me broaden my horizons.

Although I only mentioned two students by their (alias) name, there isn’t a single student at The Literacy Center that I am not thankful for. Sometimes I am thankful for what they taught me in that lesson. Sometimes I am thankful that they trust me enough to help them do one of the most difficult things in their lives. I am always thankful that our students are so brave to come to us for help. Additionally, I am very thankful that our students have taught me to appreciate the little achievements in my own life.


November is a great month to be thankful. Here’s the definition from a Google search:

I’m thankful for many things in my personal life:  my husband, my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my aunts, my uncles and cousins, my friends, my home, my dogs, living in the USA, not going hungry, my health and my job. (Just to name a few.)

My job, I’m especially thankful for because I get to help people and I also get to work with a fantastic group of volunteers.  The Literacy Center owes gratitude to our volunteers and supporters because…

They step up and into positions that help us grow and be a better organization.

They utilize their past experiences to assist us to learn.

They use their personal connections, professional connections to ask for support and to help us build relationships.

They donate time and energy to prepare lessons, to instruct, to submit monthly reports and to travel to instruction locations.

They help our students reach towards their individual goals.

They donate time and energy educating our volunteers tutors.

They donate time assessing our students.

They donate time and energy working in our computer lab.

They assist us with office work, write blogs and newsletter articles.

They help with editing our writing.

They write grants and appeal letters.

They spend an afternoon playing SCRABBLE for us.

They spend a day crafting and scrapbooking for us.

They get up in front of others and Spell.

They buy steak for us.

They make purchases for us at Barnes & Noble.

They buy a gift for someone they care for at the Mission Mall.

They make purchases on Amazon Smile to benefit our program.

They donate time and energy to assist with planning events, attending organizational meetings, to market us, to acquire financial backing, and to learn about our history.

They manage our finances with the care and consideration as if it they earned every penny.

They assist us to plan and organize our policies, procedures and our future.

They donate money, office supplies, teaching materials, books and things that make our job easier.

They learn about us and do what they can to help us be better.

They are patient and kind with each and every client/student that they come in contact with.


I’m pleased and relieved that the Literacy Center has been successful this year; we credit our volunteers, supporters and our students.  It’s not enough to show gratitude or to thank this group for doing what they do, but it is a start.  Thank you! We appreciate everything you do.

We will continue showing our gratitude by being an organization that our volunteers, supporters and clients trust and respect.  We will always be honest, right wrongs, be loyal, deliver results, continuously improve, clarify expectations, listen first, keep commitments and extend trust.

The people that are involved with The Literacy Center leave footprints on my heart and I’ll never be the same.  Thank you for that.


jennwigginton (2)Jenn Wigginton

Executive Director

Mind in the Making- Skill 7

jennwigginton (2)The Mind in the Making blog continues with the seventh life skill, Self-Directed engaged learning.  This is how our program works.

To understand skill 7, Self-Directed Engaged Learning you must understand that it “calls on Executive Functions of the brain including not going on automatic, but reflecting about the experience or situation, setting goals and working toward them and being flexible in thinking about how to learn something in a new way….”    The Literacy Center strives to achieve the understanding of this skill and intertwine it within our program.   We strive to maintain a trustworthy relationship with our clients and volunteers, help clients set and work towards self-identified goals, teach them to be accountable, elaborate and extend their learning and create a community of learners.  If I had to pick one that was most difficult it would be the latter.  It is a hard first step to ask for help to improve your reading and comprehension skills but it is equally as hard to take each and every step after.  Maintaining the dedication and commitment to being a learner each and every day is something we all can have difficulty with.  We are not perfect, never will be, we can always make improvement in ourselves and in the things we do.  I fully believe that everyone has the ability to learn something from everyone and that is how each of the seven essential life skills comes into play.

Would you like to join our community of learners?  Will you accept the challenge to embrace learning each and every day?  When you are ready, contact me. I’m Jennifer Wigginton and I’m a life-long learner.

Stay tuned next week as we wrap up the Mind in the Making series of blogs.

Mind in the Making: Skills 5 & 6

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

We’re continuing outlining the 7 essential life skills in our blog. This week, I will focus on skills 5 and 6, which happen to be two of my favorites!

Skill 5 – Critical Thinking:  For those of you who know me, you know I’m big on critical thinking. I have dedicated an entire workshop on activities to promote critical thinking! Critical thinkers are better able to process information. What does that mean? Well, if you can think critically, you are able to make better decisions, and be a bit less naïve. In an age where we have endless amounts of information available to us 24/7, it’s important for us to be able to sift through that information and come to a logical conclusion. Critical thinking allows us to use reason and logic to form our opinions, beliefs, and draw conclusions based upon our prior knowledge (which directly builds upon making connections!). This skill is paramount for functioning as an adult, and teaching it is really fun! Get in touch with me, and I’ll send you some fun games to play to boost critical thinking.

Skill 6 – Taking on Challenges: When was the last time you had to try at something? Like really, really try? I witnessed my daughter, a girl who was afraid of grass the previous year, recently master this skill. My daughter is four, and she really wanted to learn to ride a horse. So, my husband and I got her cute riding pants, boots, and a half hour at a barn on an adorable pony named Buddy. She was so excited; she could barely sleep the night before.  When we got to the barn, she helped brush Buddy and clean his shoes. Then, it came time to get on him. She climbed a little ladder and just stood there shaking her head. She was frozen with fear. She was not getting on that pony. After some soothing words from her trainer, ten minutes, deep breathing exercises, and reassurances from me, she let me lift her onto Buddy’s back. It didn’t take long for her to get incredibly comfortable, and she shooed me away so she could focus on her lesson. Fast forward a couple of lessons, and she’s already trotting! At any point, she could have given up and not have gotten on that pony. But, she didn’t. That single action of her getting on Buddy helped her realize that she can do so many things if she just tries. She tackled that challenge and now has an activity that is building her confidence to continue to try other things that will help her grow to be independent.

If you’ve been following the blog this month, you might be saying, “Yes, I know these things are important.” Of course you know! However, Mind in the Making isn’t about teaching you new information. It’s about helping you take the information you always thought to be correct, proving it with scientific research, and then working through how to help instill these skills in yourself and the people you are around. Mind in the Making isn’t just a teaching method; it’s a way of life. Let’s embrace it.

Mind in the Making: Skills 3 & 4

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Last week, I wrote about how Mind in the Making applies to everyone, regardless of their age. I briefly outlined the first two skills, focus and self-control, and perspective taking. This week, I’ll go into a bit more detail about skills three and four, communicating and making connections. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to solve the world’s problems with Mind in the Making research!


Have you ever noticed that when you are reading the requirements for a job, they almost always say they are looking for a candidate with superior communication skills? Think about the millions of ways humans communicate with each other every day; speaking, writing, music, facial expressions, physical gestures, art, movies, text messages, and the list could go on for another 500 words. Is it any wonder that this is an essential skill? There are 7 billion people on this planet, and we all need to communicate with each other. Whether you are communicating for a job, to a friend, or just to express yourself, it’s a skill that we all need to improve upon. Exercising better communication, especially when built upon the previous skill of perspective taking, can take us far. It will not only help us land that awesome job, but we will be able to do it well. This means we can be more efficient, less stressed, which directly leads to being happier and having overall better health! Wait, did I just find a way to lessen your risk of a heart attack? Ok, probably not, but it is still pretty important.


Making Connections:

Read the description of communicating again. See what I did there? At the end, I linked better communication to better health. Everything is connected to something else. I’m not necessarily talking about the butterfly effect here, but connecting pieces of information can change outcomes. If a person is better able to make connections, they are better able to understand and process information. They will use the new information they are receiving and be able to relate it to information they already knew. Being able to categorize things, being organized in our thoughts and actions, thinking about things sequentially, and being able to use all of this information to understand what is being communicated to us are what making connections is about. It will help us make better decisions by making a connection between our actions and the consequences.


Are you noticing a theme here? Our weekly blog has outlined the first four of the Mind in the Making’s essential skills. Notice how they build on each other (or connect to each other!)? Come back next week when we discuss skills five and six!