Last year all of us at Literacy Services have spent a lot of time reflecting on half a century of providing educational programs for undereducated adults in our community. The milestone of our 50th Anniversary  inspired many to wonder where our former students are now and how their lives have been impacted by the time they spent with us. The idea to create a book of those stories was hatched by cultural anthropologist Joanne Passaro, who recruited journalist Linda Spice to coordinate a substantial effort to find and interview former students. With their energy and commitment, additional volunteers, including current and past board members and staff, joined in to help make this idea come to life. I got involved to help with the interviews, fact checking, and editing, and Dustin Slane took on the role of book designer. These efforts resulted in the publication of “Unlocking Potential: Literacy Services of Wisconsin Celebrates 50 Years,” an inspirational compilation of stories about perseverance, empowerment, and achievement.

To give you a taste of the stories contained in this amazing book, I am sharing the story of Dennis. Dennis is a former ABE student whose commitment to strengthening his foundational literacy skills helped him retain and advance his career while others around him lost their jobs. We are honored that Dennis partly attributes his success to the knowledge he attained through his studies at Literacy Services; we applaud his hard work and determination to achieve, and we congratulate him on his recent retirement! His story, like so many others, reminds us all how important this work is to the people we serve, to their families, and to our community. We are excited to offer “Unlocking Potential: Literacy Services of Wisconsin Celebrates 50 Years” for sale through I invite you to look it over and order your copy today! We also have copies available for purchase here at our offices. Ask to see a copy the next time you are here! Please enjoy the following excerpt from “Unlocking Potential”:




dennis1Dennis came to Literacy Services in 1995. His co-worker was in a program at LSW, and Dennis thought it would be a good idea for him to improve his skills as his job requirements changed. “A lot of jobs want you to take classes to learn new skills,” he observed, “and I figured that I needed to work on my reading and spelling so I could qualify for those classes.”

Dennis was persistent and motivated; he studied reading and spelling at LSW two or three times a week for almost nine years. His work at Literacy Services gave him the foundation he needed to take a number of job-related classes over the years. Dennis learned a variety of new skills, and became a certified welder. He kept updating his skills and learning new ones, which helped him advance in his career and also seemed to insulate him from layoffs.

“I had figured it might help with layoffs,” Dennis recalled. “Those new skills kept you from getting laid off. Many times, I would keep working when other guys who were there longer than me were getting laid off.”

Dennis fondly remembers working with many wonderful tutors over the course of his time at Literacy Services. He enjoyed the learning environment and appreciated being challenged to improve: “I had some great tutors! A couple of them got on me, well, not exactly, but pushed me hard in some areas where I needed it. I enjoyed that. I don’t remember all of the tutors’ names, but they were good people. It was fun, and I enjoyed working with them.”


Dennis is now retired. He and his wife moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas in July of 2014. He looks back on a rewarding welding career and considers his studies at Literacy Services to be an important part of his success. Dennis enjoyed the learning process and continued to learn throughout the course of his working life.

“I couldn’t have taken all those courses without the work I was doing on reading. I qualified for them and it made a big difference,” recounted Dennis. Those courses not only resulted in his advanced certification as a welder, but in other skills that enhanced his value as an employee. “Not being laid off. That was because of all the studying I did. And I enjoyed it a lot.”

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“Unlocking Potential” won the Bronze Award in the recent Adobe Software & TechSoup design contest for non-profit organizations. Thank you to all of our friends on Facebook who helped us stand out among the other non-profits competing around the nation!

Kelly Fox

Director of Adult Basic Education