Most people do not witness miracles every day. Most people might witness a miracle once in their lifetime, but not every day. Witnessing a miracle every day is perhaps seen only in movies and on television.
There is a place in downtown Birmingham on First Avenue North, a humble place full of shelves upon shelves of books, where people greet you with a smile and a desire for each visitor to be a miracle. That place is the Literacy Council of Central Alabama.
Katrina Watson is the executive director of the Literacy Council. On a daily basis, she witnesses people changing their lives for the better through literacy. She has seen people come in feeling ashamed and defeated, then a few months later hold their heads up high.
“Personally, this is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, working here at the Literacy Council of Central Alabama,” Watson said. “It’s amazing to see the changes in people. Whether it’s a physical change or an emotional change. People who come in with their heads down, leave with their heads up because they have an improved confidence in their abilities.”
The Literacy Council opened in 1999. Its main mission is to help adults and their families improve their lives by teaching them to read, write and speak English.
“What we offer includes programming in adult basic literacy, which is one-on-one tutoring or small group tutoring, and English, which is for non-English speakers and is given in a classroom setting. We also have GED programming in conjunction with Jefferson State Community College,” Watson said. “We also work with school-aged children in Walker County, but we primarily work with adults.”
The Literacy Council offers volunteer training monthly for those interested in changing lives and witnessing miracles. According to its website, there are 92,000 people in Alabama who cannot read at all or cannot read simple materials. Changing those statistics for the better is Watson’s mission in life.
“This is an empowering place that recognizes the dignity of everyone who comes here. To see them coming in not knowing how to read, then leaving with a smile and the dignity they attain, it’s just priceless,” Watson said. “It’s amazing to think that the work we are doing is changing someone’s entire life; it’s not only changing their life, but it’s changing the trajectory of their entire household.”
If you have an interest in seeing a miracle or a multitude of miracles, you can support the Literacy Council by volunteering or donating. Donations fund books for at-risk children, tutor training sessions, GED scholarships for adults to attend college and more. The Alabama Power Foundation has been an ongoing supporter of the Literacy Council.
All of that is done at that place in downtown Birmingham on First Avenue North, that humble, not too big of a place full of shelves upon shelves of books, and of miracles taking place on a daily basis
For more information, visit www.literacy-council.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].