The team from Ardmore Family Literacy traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to attend the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy National Summit on Adult Literacy. The summit consisted of a busy day of learning about the latest teaching methods and best practices in adult literacy and concluded with an award ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. There, AFL received the Pearl Literacy Award.

AFL Executive Director Leslie Kutz said this award was given to three different organizations: One organization that focused on children, one large organization that focused on adults, and AFL, which represented a smaller organization dedicated to adult literacy.

“This is the first year for this award, and they wanted to honor programs that showed measurable results. Programs that get people in, teach them the skills they need to receive their high school equivalency, then get them moving on to the next step in their life,” Kutz said.

She said this award is especially meaningful because the Barbara Bush Foundation was instrumental in the foundation of AFL.

“About seven years ago, the Barbara Bush Foundation came to town and partnered with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to get us started,” Kutz said. “They looked at the statistics and saw that our community needed an adult literacy program, and they put together a board of directors who would champion the project.”

The Barbara Bush Foundation helped support the organization for its first three years. After that time it was AFL’s responsibility to find ways to support itself. Kutz said numerous organizations across the country were founded under this model, and many of these are no longer in existence.

“We’re so fortunate in this community to have such strong support and such a strong board,” Kutz said. “We figured out a way to make it work. We became a 501c3, and we just took off.”

Kutz said it was extremely important to her that her instructors also attend the summit. Part of the award included flight and accommodations for her and a guest, so she gave that spot to language teacher Adisha Chapman.

“I have three teachers on staff, but Adisha Chapman was one of our founding board members. In fact, she was the board president,” Kutz said. “She spearheaded the work to get us up and running, and later when we needed a teacher she resigned her position on the board to come to work.”

The two other instructors, Sheri Mitchell and Nancy Etheridge, were able to attend because of donations from within the community.

Kutz concluded by saying while it feels good to be honored and have their hard work recognized, AFL is actually all about the students.

“If it wasn’t for the brave adults who get the courage up to walk through our doors and make a change for their life and their family, we wouldn’t be getting recognized,” Kutz said. “At the end of the day it’s really all about them, and we’re so thankful that they take the time to come in. As long as there is a need, we want to be filling it.”