Meet the Board

May 5, 2009

Project Learn has decided to add a new feature to this blog.  “Meet the Board” will be a weekly post that will feature a new Project Learn board member who will share why they decided to get involved with Project Learn and their thoughts on literacy and personal experiences with education.

1. What is your name, title and employer?
Denise Stuart, associate professor at the University of AkronCollege of Education

2. Do you hold a specific seat on the Board?
I serve as chair of the program committee. This allows me stay in touch with the many programs Project Learn offers and to involve students from the University of Akron with program activities.

3. Why did you choose to become involved with Project Learn?
I have been involved with adult literacy for many years, as a volunteer initially, then as a family literacy coordinator in another county, as a member of a reading group for adult readers and now with Project Learn. I was aware of the good work Project Learn was doing in the Akron/Summit County community and so when I began to teach at the University of Akron I wanted to get involved locally. I’m glad I did.

4. In your opinion, what is the value of education?
Education creates opportunity and can open doors to options. Options are part of freedom in life. South African leader Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It can change the world of the individual and of the community. A woman who works for children’s rights, Marion Wright Edelman says that “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” It is all about hope and possibility.

5. In Summit County, more than 62,000 people over the age of 18 lack a high school diploma. How do you interpret this?
This reflects the trend nationally and continues to need attention. The kinds of jobs available has changed as plants and factories have closed or downsized. Additional skills and abilities are now needed. Our schools are working through reform efforts that make learning more meaningful and relevant, that consider new structures for high school, and ways we can assess learning beyond one test. A program with The University of Akron, Early College High School, is one new approach to high school that helps prepare students for careers as well as college.

6. What is your favorite book? Why?
This is such a hard question… There are some I keep coming back to and read again and again like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a delightful and magical story of generations of a family in a village over 100 years and all that can happen in life. I enjoy escaping in mysteries like Walter Moseley’s series of Easy Rawlins crime and PI adventures set in L.A. over the decades. I like to get to know characters in a story. As a child I enjoyed Pippi Longstocking’s zany adventures and Nancy Drew’s clever solving of mysteries. I teach children’s literature so I very much enjoy exploring books I can recommend to teachers and children, readers of all ages. And lately I’ve been thinking about my grandmother who grew up in Finland. I never heard her story about those times. So I have been reading information about what Finland is like, imagining her life. I hope someday I will travel there to learn more.

7. Finish this sentence: Reading allows me ….
to enjoy who we are and can be, to go to new places, to learn new things and new words. Mary McLeod Bethune said that “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” I agree.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I feel fortunate to be part of Project Learn and so appreciate the tremendous work of the teachers, staff and students. Every time I go to a Project Learn graduation I am moved by the stories of students and so proud of the work they have done. B.B. King, the blues guitarist, reminds us that “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” They will have that degree and the experience of learning forever.

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