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March 2019 Issue

From the Executive Director:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Honestly, It’s for Everyone.


Boys & Girls Club


Literary Council


Grow Nebraska

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Literacy Council of Grand Island Promotes Community Engagement Through Education

Raising the Bar | Thriving Places | March 2019

In June of 2018, the foundation awarded a three-year $60,000 general operating support grant to the Literacy Council of Grand Island.

The Literacy Council of Grand Island teaches students the literacy skills needed to communicate, grow, and thrive within their community. Literacy skills encompass English literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, digital literacy, and citizenship. All programs and services are offered free of charge regardless of age, income, background, race, or religion.

“We tell supporters when they invest in our organization, they are not donating to charity, but building community. We know that a small investment in education today creates tremendous dividends for our community tomorrow.”

– Kurt Stoppkotte, Executive Director

One in seven people in Grand Island (population: 50,000) are not proficient in literacy skills. With 700 students and more arriving at their center every day, the Literacy Council of Grand Island feels the pressure. “We have a model that aims to get people in, registered, and assessed quickly,” said Stoppkotte. “Our goal is to have a student involved in free literacy education within fifteen minutes.”

The general operating support grant from Peter Kiewit Foundation is exciting to the non‑profit because it relieves some fundraising pressure so the organization can focus on programming, which includes one-on-one tutoring, group classes, a Language and Learning Lab, and a Community Connection Center.

A dedicated force of nearly 200 volunteers helps the Literacy Council of Grand Island serve a student base which includes refugees and immigrants as well as other community members who have simply fallen through the cracks of the education system.

The bulk of the organization’s volunteers are retirees who have come to value their experience at the Literacy Council of Grand Island as much as the literacy students. The drop-in Community Connection Center provides opportunities for students and volunteers to socialize with and learn from each other. Many volunteers report an increased sense of purpose. Students participating in the free educational programs are also encouraged to volunteer and give back to the local community.

In an effort to integrate younger volunteers, the Literacy Council has forged a partnership with a local high school. As part of the school’s world religions class, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time as tutors or babysitters to help literacy students focus on learning.

We all have something to learn. We all have something to teach. We try to encourage students to teach each other,” said Stoppkotte.

One such example is Abdelhfeiz, an immigrant from Sudan who is making a new life for himself in Grand Island.

“I love the Literacy Council of Grand Island, because when I am here, I feel as if I have come home.”

Abdelhfeiz arrived at the Literacy Council of Grand Island in search of help to learn English and create connections within his new community. Two years later, Abdelhfeiz had the opportunity to give back. He recently volunteered to serve as a translator for an Arabic-speaking individual seeking services at a local shelter—something that wouldn’t have been possible without his experiences with the Literacy Council.

“Abdelhfeiz exemplifies everything that can be achieved when a community makes a small investment in its people,” said Stoppkotte. “Thanks to the Peter Kiewit Foundation’s investment, we are able to create a stronger, better-connected, more prosperous community.”