A Circle of Ten, Inc. ~Network for Collaboration
Recognizes Community Leader and
Gateway to American Opportunities Initiative Efforts
INNOVATION IN ACTION!
History of Gateway to American Opportunities
“Who/What are you concerned about in your community” was the question asked in twelve priority setting meetings in four rural East Texas Counties in 2002. The unanimous answer: “Local Adult Literacy!”
Enter: Peggy Lustig, a visionary community leader with a passion for literacy and compassion for those lacking English, the ability to read, and skills to succeed in life. In 2003, she founded Gateway to American Opportunities (GAO), an innovative regional literacy Initiative network, bringing collaborative solutions tailored to meet the local needs of rural communities by increasing English, literacy and life skills opportunities for adults.
GAO sustains existing literacy councils, libraries, churches, schools, plant farms, manufacturers and colleges by addressing their lack of funding, technology/software, free tutor training and capacity building training to adequately serve the growing needs and sustain their services through local, state and federal grants and support.
PERFORMANCE & RESULTS: GAO measures of the success of each project with timely reports to the funders, partners and board. In 2011, GAO Partners offered 195 literacy classes in traditional and nontraditional sites in rural Cherokee, Rusk, Smith, Van Zandt and Wood Counties. The classes are held in/outside small rural towns, including: Alto, Bullard, Canton, Henderson, Jacksonville, Mineola, Quitman, Rusk, Van and Winnsboro.
GAO services evolved overtime answering this question: “What is needed next to make families independent?”: GAO’s certified training and curriculum include:
1 “English as a Second Language” Volunteer Tutor ProLiteracy Laubach Way to English Training
2 “Money Smart” FDIC financial literacy tutor training
3 “*So You Want to Buy a Home?” presents basic steps toward homeownership taught by Realtors, Bank Loan Officers, Property Insurance Agents, and GAO staff.
*© Lustig Regional Consultants
4 “First Time Homebuyer” sessions for prospective homeowners taught by GAO certified staff
5 “**The Process of Collaboration” 3-Day Leadership Seminar, from A Circle of Ten, teaches community and program development and grant writing as a process.
**© Holdway & Associates, 1996
SUSTAINABILITY: GAO doesn’t “adopt” literacy partners. Together, partners craft innovative, collaborative solutions as they work on regional grants with GAO. Then, each partner takes these ideas home and concentrates on forging new local partnerships, drafting new volunteers, leverages GAO resources gaining local support and new grants to benefit their local community.
The Funders are part of collaborative solutions! Ms. Lustig’s warm charm, inclusion and celebration of the Funders resulted in several of them making grants to individual GAO partners. The media shows up for GAO’s Funders Celebration Ceremonies as rural literacy partners come together with new learners/readers, their tutors, board members, and elected officials.
Statewide recognition of “Funder of the Year” went to GAO’s literacy Funders “ who impacted rural Texas on a wide basis, going the extra mile with rural grant seekers” with awards given in front of their peers in “the largest gathering of funders in the nation”. Winners include Southside Bank, Verizon Foundation, Texas Bank & Trust, Dollar General Literacy and Tocker Foundations.
IN CLOSING: Ms. Peggy Lustig is our hero. Her drive to make a difference comes from her mother who married a US soldier and immigrated to Texas. She sought her US Congressman’s help, when our country tried to deport her, resulting in a new law allowing military spouses to stay in the country while seeking citizenship.
Ms. Lustig also goes the extra mile! She took to heart the rural factory owner’s statement, “I would double a few employees salary if they could speak English. I would triple the salary of one or two employees if they could write English.” She helped bring funding to a local college, but the classes filled before these employees could sign up. With “Literacy at Work” as her motto, Ms. Lustig used her personal monies to fund the literacy program held in lunch rooms at factories.
Thank you for the opportunity to shine a light on GAO and of this unsung hero who put 1,000s of miles on her old truck driving from church, to factory to library weaving a web of innovative literacy services and building the capacity of partners bringing a literal “Gateway to America Opportunities” to those most in need of literacy.
She is an inspiration to us all.