Coronavirus Update

COVID Policy Update 
May 31, 2022

Beginning Tuesday, May 31st , LSW will require all students, volunteers, and staff to wear masks at all our locations. This is in response to the CDC having moved Milwaukee County into its “High” risk classification.

We continuously monitor the spread of COVID-19 at a national, state, and local level while adhering to all local health department rules in our evaluation of work and event protocols. At the point that community transmission levels decline, LSW will reassess our mask policy.

Thank you for supporting adult learning and working together to keep everyone safe. 

Break new ground. Leave no stone unturned. Turn the tide...

What do the phrases above have in common?

If your answer is that all three are examples of idioms, then you are correct! Yes, these are all idioms, expressions that have meanings that often cannot be deduced directly from the individual words in the saying. But these phrases also illustrate how Literacy Services of Wisconsin and our students have endured the many challenges of this past year and how we, together with your help, are building momentum for the future.

We piloted a new program over the summer, a High School Equivalency Diploma program for English Learners (HSED-EL). In this first-ever offering, our ELL students were truly breaking new ground! The eleven graduates from this pilot program are trailblazers. Cecilia and Gilbert are two of these ground-breaking students:

Cecilia – “After having my 4 children, I never stopped looking for opportunities, especially for my children. I would like them to follow my example and see that in life there are goals that can be achieved with effort, and that is how I decided to look for schools to finish high school and obtain my diploma. I would like to continue studying and obtain my nursing or social worker diploma.”

Gilbert – “When I started at LSW I could not speak even a word of English. Sometimes I didn’t understand anything when someone spoke to me, but I worked hard, and the teachers helped me to learn to speak and write. They also helped me to get my driver’s license. I believe I have learned a lot at LSW.”

Adult literacy education is our sole focus at LSW and we are passionate about it! One of our four new Guiding Principles is Courageous Thinking and we are living that principle each day. We have left no stone unturned in our quest to provide adult education services to the whole of our community. In addition to our longstanding Adult Education and English Language Learning programs that have been the foundation of our organization for over 55 years, we have also courageously added numerous contextualized HSED classes (HSED-EL being just one of them) as well as a Corrections Adult Education program. Looking forward to the coming year, we will continue to overturn stones as we launch a citizenship program and open an in-house GED testing center!

There is a great demand for adult education programming in our community. A literate community is a more equitable and vibrant community! Adult education services should be available to all, be it our family members, our friends, our co-workers, or our neighbors down the street or across town. As we continue to further develop our comprehensive services, our goal is to provide access and opportunity to all adults in southeastern Wisconsin. We want to see our graduating classes multiply in the future. This is a lofty goal and we need your help to reach it. Please support Literacy Services and adult literacy education!

Saying it has been a challenge living alongside COVID-19 over the last 18 months is an understatement. All of you have felt it and been touched by it as well. We hope, however, that when you read about our English language learners breaking barriers and of new programs impacting areas in our community that have been historically excluded, you can feel the positive momentum! The tide is turning!

Our doors are slowly, but surely, reopening. We are restructuring and reorganizing our approach to both classroom-based and one-on-one learning opportunities to accommodate pandemic-era adaptations. We are committing to hybrid options for programming that incorporate both in-person and virtual learning going forward.

Cecilia, now an LSW graduate, captures the feel at our learning centers this fall:

“My experience at Literacy Services has been as if a girl was going to her first day of school. I felt that feeling when I went to school because I loved it. It has been a great experience and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to be in this program. Although, to be frank, it has not been easy. Barriers appeared to me and at one point I thought I would not make it. But the truth is I did not give up.”


Make no bones about it, adult education is more important now than ever before. The generous backing from our community continues to take our breath away. Your financial support allows LSW to continue to provide educational opportunities to even more adults in our community. Please use the donate button below to make the biggest donation you can. Together, we will get back in full swing and continue to write new success stories of empowered students changing their lives and our community for generations to come.



Holly McCoy
Executive Director

Waukesha Center Open House

Join Us for an Open House!

Come visit our beautiful Waukesha location on September 23rd for a tour of our new learning space and score a Literacy Services goodie bag! Join our program leaders Kelly Fox and Heidi Friedrichs at our 831 N. Grand Ave. Learning Center to see how staff, volunteers, and students are returning to in-person instruction. Learn about LSW’s full spectrum of adult education programs and find ways to support our mission at our volunteer information table. We are excited to invite our community into our space and look forward to meeting you in person. No registration necessary, just stop in and say hello!

Thursday, September 23rd

831 N. Grand Ave.
2nd Floor - Suite 200
Waukesha, WI 53186

COVID-19 Safety
Per Literacy Services’ organization-wide policy, masks will be required for this indoor event. We will also limit capacity in the learning space to 25 guests at any one time.

Our office is located in downtown Waukesha. Street parking is available, but it can get busy. Use this interactive map to help you plan ahead!

Coronavirus Update

COVID Policy Update 
March 31, 2022

LSW continues to prioritize the safety of our staff, volunteers, and students. In January, LSW postponed in-person classes in response to the Omicron variant. Since then, in-person classes have resumed as usual and LSW has maintained a mask requirement while onsite at all locations, along with a health check upon entry.

The current community level indicators for COVID-19 are low. Due to the steady decline in community transmission, masks will be optional indoors at all LSW locations effective Monday, March 28. The only exception is for those engaged in one-on-one tutoring. Both students and volunteers must continue to wear masks while working together. Additionally, LSW will pause daily health checks upon arrival at all locations.

LSW remains a mask-friendly environment. As a reminder, we may need to pivot back to mask requirements and health checks as we continue to provide services during the pandemic. You will receive an update from LSW if anything changes.

We still need everyone to work together to keep one another safe. If you are sick, please stay home.

Austin Greenburg
Volunteer of the Month - April

In the past year, LSW staff and volunteers have faced some interesting challenges as we navigated the world of virtual education. Volunteer, Austin Greenburg, is certainly no stranger to the varying degrees of energy, effort, and quick creative thinking required to deliver classes online.

Austin began volunteering as an HSED Language Arts class coach with LSW in the fall of 2020 for the evening class of 20 students. Today, he continues this role for a class of 40 HSED students! Austin’s classroom support has been invaluable. Between his assistance fielding student questions, helping students (and instructors) troubleshoot tech issues, and delivering thought provoking mini-lessons, his contributions have been vital to the HSED program. In addition, Austin has spent countless hours providing individualized support outside class and late into the evening.

We could share a long list of quotes from HSED students and instructors thanking Austin for his time and support – but that would be several pages long. They all include the same sentiment: Austin, I could not have done this without you.

Austin, we are so grateful for your spirit of volunteerism and thank you for your support to the LSW HSED instructors and your unwavering dedication to the students whose lives you have made a positive impact.

Volunteer of the Month - March 2021

Mary Hempel

LSW expected that opening a new location in a new county would be a big endeavor. The pandemic gave our reasonable expectations a good thrashing and exponentially multiplied our challenges. As we struggled to build programming for the new Waukesha location, one volunteer became an integral part of our team. We are delighted to recognize Mary Hempel as LSW’s Volunteer of the Month!

When Mary learned of the merger between Literacy Services of WI (LSW) and Greater Waukesha Literacy (GWL), she reached out to learn how she could help. A former volunteer for both organizations and a retired Special Education teacher, Mary recognized that she had a lot to offer ABE students and was eager to help. She had no idea how important she would become to the successful launch of programming in Waukesha.

Mary started out by helping to create, sort, and organize lesson materials. She volunteered dozens of hours to help with what she cheerfully described as “busy work.” Her efforts accelerated our progress and allowed us to focus on student recruitment and enrollment.

As we began to enroll new ABE students, Mary graciously accepted every assignment we asked of her. Sudden schedule changes, students dropping and adding, the safety protocols – none of these things fazed Mary. She often arrived an hour early or stayed an hour after her session, just to help out around the office. Mary became a crucial member of the Waukesha team and we couldn’t have accomplished all that we have without her immeasurable contributions.

Oh, and did we mention, she’s also an excellent tutor?! A certified instructor of the Wilson Reading System, Mary excels at teaching students with significant deficits. Her current student, Shazia, credits Mary with her ever-improving skills and showers her with gratitude. We echo Shazia’s sentiments: Mary is a phenomenal volunteer and we are beyond grateful for her time, energy, and dedication. Thank you, Mary!

Gary Rosenberg

Gary Rosenberg exploring in Cedarburg

Gary Rosenberg
LSW ELL Tutor - March 2020 to present
Student - Mayela B., Waukesha (formerly of Venezuela)

More than ever before, LSW volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of helping students continue their learning in a world turned upside down by COVID-19. So this month, we would like to specially thank a tutor who is doing just that.

Gary Rosenberg joined LSW in March 2020. He is a former professor of Geology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and adjunct professor of Geoscience at UW-Milwaukee. Now retired and living in Milwaukee, he began tutoring Mayela B. just as the pandemic took hold, drastically altering the way tutors and students work together.

Zoom calls from home have now replaced in-person lessons at LSW, but despite the learning curve and disruption to traditional tutoring, Gary’s dedication to teaching his student has stayed the course. Meeting online with her every week has indeed been a big change for both of them. Yet, this new way of tutoring has also taught them that determination, flexibility, and a desire to learn can overcome just about any obstacle.

Mayela moved to the US from Venezuela and now lives with her husband and young son in Waukesha. She gives Gary high marks for helping her with English in this new environment.

“Mr. Gary is an excellent tutor, super responsible, a human being with a great heart, willing to help and clarify all the doubts [I] may have,” she said. “He is a person with a great vocation to teach ... I have learned a lot with him and I feel very good about his classes.”

As for the retired professor, it was a natural choice to volunteer in adult literacy education. We asked him about what volunteering means for him:

Q: How did you decide to volunteer in adult literacy education, specifically ELL? Socialization is a high priority for me in retirement. I do enjoy teaching one-on-one or small groups, and I do enjoy the challenge of speaking another language, though I hasten to state I know the priority here is helping my student learn English. Still, I think my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish does help me communicate with Mayela and helps facilitate mutual understanding. A friend had been tutoring at LSW recently and I had taught at Literacy Services years ago when I first retired, so it was natural for me to resume.

Q: How would you describe your student’s approach to learning and working with you? Mayela is very motivated to learn and has no trouble meeting scheduled classes regularly. She also has a great sense of humor, not least of which is about the mistakes we make with each other's language. She is willing to learn from them, understands when I correct her, and is capable of making progress as a result.

She also has well-defined career interests in finance-related work, which she did in Venezuela, and she is focused on continuing that here. Her husband, John, is also very motivated working two jobs, so they both are working as a team to adjust to the US.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about tutoring English?
I simply enjoy the day-to-day communication and witnessing Mayela's progress.

Q: What do you find challenging during these uncertain times? Distancing is a challenge because I, like everyone else, am social and I would like to meet my student and LSW personnel. A specific problem is avoiding people who deny the necessity of distancing ... but I am a writer and am co-editing two books, so I do distance more than many people usually.

Q: What has the transition been like for you as a tutor from in-person to virtual tutoring? I am surprised that I enjoy it -- more than I expected. As a geology professor in Indiana I was very happy that I was never required to teach an online course, again because I like personal interaction. I still think it is essential and first priority. However, the Burlington English Core platform and I assume Ventures offer graded-level exercises and there are ways to assess progress. When I first taught at LSW years ago, we simply read books together and I was not satisfied with my consequent inability to assess progress satisfactorily.


Thank you Gary for all you do for LSW!

Literacy Services of Wisconsin and WRTP/BIG STEP’s Multi-Craft Core Curriculum High School Equivalency Diploma Recognized Nationally as an Innovative Practice in Adult Education
Multi-Craft Core Curriculum High School Equivalency Diploma to Join Online Showcase of Innovative Practices on September 22 during National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week
[Milwaukee, WI, September 21, 2020] – Literacy Services of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership Building Industry Group & Skilled Trades Employment Program (WRTP/BIG STEP) is proud to announce that its Multi-Craft Core Curriculum High School Equivalency Diploma (MC3 HSED) has been recognized as an innovative practice in adult education by the Advancing Innovation in Adult Education Project led by Manhattan Strategy Group. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). MC3 HSED is one of four practices selected nationally for facilitating secondary credentialing in innovative ways. The selected practices will all be featured in an online showcase on September 22, 2020, at 2:00 PM ET during National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.
“The Advancing Innovation project aims to increase the information available about innovative practices in adult education, identify what motivates programs to innovate, and help the field better understand the conditions necessary to support implementation. Adult educators’ development of innovative products, services, and processes is a key strategy for providing better services to learners,” said Cheryl L. Keenan, Director of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, U.S. Department of Education.
Local adult education programs help adult learners develop knowledge and skills, gain secondary credentials, and transition to further education and employment. These programs are especially vital today as many adults face unemployment due to the pandemic and need to retool to safely return to work. The selected practices illustrate innovative approaches for adults to attain a secondary credential while developing career-readiness skills, earning college credits, or obtaining an occupational certificate in a career pathway.
“It is an honor to have our local program recognized nationally for its collaboration and innovation,” said Holly McCoy, Executive Director for Literacy Services of Wisconsin.“Integrated Education and Training requires us to think intentionally about how adult literacy can align with other industries to create meaningful career connections for our students and ensure they are confident and ready for their desired career field. Wisconsin’s construction industry projects a 10% increase over the next decade, making this program necessary to support growth in the state.”
Matthew Waltz, Chief Operating Officer of WRTP/BIG STEP said, “Our partnership with Literacy Services of Wisconsin has been invaluable in providing better service to our clients. This partnership has led to the creation of the construction competency high school diploma program and has allowed us to provide a pathway to a family-sustaining career in the construction trades that previously was not available. This program has already led to dozens of individuals securing their diploma and essential skills towards the first step in their future careers.”
“The Advancing Innovation project will continue to identify additional innovative practices over the next three years to inform the adult education field. High-performing Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) grantees are encouraged to apply,” said Lori Meyer, Advancing Innovation Project Director, Manhattan Strategy Group.
The next application deadline is January 31, 2021. To learn more about the program and application instructions, visit the Advancing Innovation in Adult Education project online for more information.
About Literacy Services of Wisconsin (LSW): Literacy Services of Wisconsin’s mission is to partner with motivated adults to provide access to quality basic education and skills training so they can improve their lives, enrich their families, and strengthen our community. We believe that every learner is unique. As such, their paths to their educational goals may vary depending on their learning styles, abilities, barriers to employment, life schedules, and personal commitments to programming.


About WRTP/BIG STEP: WRTP/BIG STEP’s mission is to enhance the ability of private sector organizations to recruit and develop a more diverse, qualified workforce in construction, manufacturing, and emerging sectors of the regional economy.


About the Advancing Innovation in Adult Education Project: The Advancing Innovation in Adult Education Project is a five-year effort to identify and highlight innovative practices in adult education that lead to improved outcomes. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). 


Media Resources

Volunteer of the Month - September 2020

We are thrilled to announce Rozanne Screven as September volunteer of the month! Rozanne is a longtime educator and licensed reading teacher who has professionally taught first grade and adults at Waukesha Technical College. She began volunteering with Literacy Services in 2006 when WCTC required staff to do community service work, however Rozanne had long passed her required hours because she fell in love with tutoring. Rozanne has been a tutor in all of our programs, but as a reading teacher, she is currently tutoring a couple of students in our Adult Basic Education program. She loves the Wilson Reading System, a highly structured phonics system, and says it’s the perfect way to teach reading.

Rozanne finds tutoring to be such a rewarding experience and is always excited seeing students improve. One of her students, whose story always makes her tear up, was denigrated by their teacher and did not have access to reading classes so he faked it, all the while not feeling as smart as others. “I could not believe a teacher would do that to a child,” said Rozanne. Her student had memorized a lot of words and resourcefully got by, but when there were promoted to a supervisory role, he was terrified his employer would find out. This story is similar to many of our students who are looking to improve their reading, writing, English, or math skills so they can advance their career, gain meaningful employment, and support their families.

At the start of our transition to remote learning, Rozanne immediately made plans with her students to continue lessons by phone. She gathered the materials she needed and set out to mailing packets to her students. It has been challenging working from home for many of us because there are more distractions competing for attention. However, we’re amazed at how she made a hectic transition seamless. The special care and attention she devoted to her students, especially during a pandemic, deserves to be recognized.

In the words of Bianca Johnson-Ortiz, the Adult Basic Education Program Director, “The key to maintaining engagement with these learners is building a personal relationship. Rozanne’s patient and kind demeanor allow her students to feel at ease while she further makes a genuine connection to know the whole person.” Rozanne has an endearing spirit, a love for teaching and fiber arts, including weaving. We are grateful for her truly inspiring dedication to our mission!


Local Literacy Leaders - Online Panel

Local Literacy Leaders

Literacy Services of Wisconsin is hosting a panel with transformational local literacy leaders Cetonia Weston-Roy and Barbara Cerda. This panel features incredible Milwaukee-area women who are reshaping our city through literacy.

Join us on Zoom and be a part of the conversation! Please register to receive a link to join the FREE virtual gathering. For assistance, email  

September 22nd

6:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Meet the Leaders

Barbara Cerda

Barbara Cerda is the founder of Barby The Book Fairy, a program that makes literature accessible to children and adults by collecting new and used books and filling the free, little libraries in Milwaukee neighborhoods. She is passionate about uplifting the Milwaukee community by preserving cultural traditions, participating in social justice movements, and most importantly, by serving others. She was born and raised on the south side and attended Milwaukee Public Schools. Barbara is a proud Alverno College Alumna and obtained her B.A. in Community Leadership and Development in December 2017. Most recently, she obtained a Non-Profit Board Leadership Certificate through the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County’s Project LEAD (Leadership, Effectiveness, and Diversity) Program.

Cetonia Weston-Roy

Cetonia Weston-Roy is a Milwaukee-area entrepreneur focused on bringing varied black voices to the forefront through literature. She is the owner of Niche Book Bar LLC, a bookstore startup focusing on black literature. She organizes events with black authors through the Black Authors Collective and is the author of "The Misadventures of Toni Macaroni" children's series.