News February 13, 2024

Seeds of Literacy: Empowering Adults with the Right to Education and Opportunity

In 2023, Kerry Klein, Director of Grant Development at Seeds of Literacy, was interviewed by Devonta Dickey, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Saint Luke’s Foundation to share more about the Seeds of Literacy and their work to achieve educational attainment for all residents in Cleveland.



Devonta D: What inspired you to join and lead Seeds of Literacy? 

Kerry K: Seeds of Literacy’s mission really spoke to me. I have always worked in education and recognize the influence of literacy on every aspect of our lives. Seeds of Literacy’s program is truly unique and was unlike any I had (and have to this day) ever encountered. At Seeds of Literacy, every adult learner receives one-to-one instruction from a volunteer tutor. Our program offers students flexibility, operating on a 12-hour a day schedule, and we have no cutoff scores for participation. The majority of students are working towards a high school equivalency, others are building basic skills such as reading.

As children, the majority of Seeds of Literacy students did not have access to the same high-quality educational experiences and resources as their more affluent peers. Systemic racism has also created significant educational disparities and kept many Seeds students from succeeding in school.

Education is a basic human right. Seeds of Literacy ensures that adult learners have access to the education they need and deserve.


Devonta D: In your opinion, what is the most significant barrier to achieve health equity in the communities and residents you serve, and how is Seeds of Literacy working to overcome it?

Kerry K: Illiteracy is one of the most significant barriers to accessing quality health care. Low literacy is consistently linked to high care costs and poor health outcomes. Seeds of Literacy has been partnering with Case Western Reserve University students to incorporate health topics into our curriculum and support students with understanding and accessing health care. The project has been extremely well received by students and the community. In recognition of the project and partnership, we received ProLiteracy’s Award for Program Innovation and Collaboration.


Devonta D: Can you describe a specific project your Seeds of Literacy took on, and how you were able to overcome any obstacles to achieve success?

Kerry K: Maintaining our east side location has been challenging over the years. Government funding is extremely limited for our program, requiring us to rely on philanthropic support to achieve our mission. The initial government support we received for Seeds East was only enough to cover approximately one-third of the site’s total cost. We have had to rely on the generosity of our network of supporters and our strong reputation in the field to acquire the funds to keep the site operational. We are grateful to the Saint Luke’s Foundation for being by our side during these challenging times. The Foundation has been a generous partner and recognizes the need for our program to be easily accessible within the local community.



Devonta D: Can you share a story about an individual or group that your Seeds of Literacy supported that you think about to give you motivation to keep going in those moments when you feel discouraged?

Kerry K: Seeds of Literacy graduate, Brianna (the participant’s name was changed for privacy purposes), is one of many students that I think of often. Brianna’s story is a great example of the benefits and opportunity provided by our new Virtual Classroom.

During the pandemic (and as an escape from domestic abuse), Brianna lost her home and was forced to live in a shelter with her children for nearly two years. During that time, she graduated from Seeds’ program (as a virtual student working from the shelter), completed nursing school, and became an licensed practical nurse.

Even more exciting, Brianna and her family recently received a fully renovated New Horizons home – her very first single-family home. Brianna was selected as a home recipient in recognition of her hard work and all she accomplished during her time at the shelter. For the first time ever, her and her children have their own bedrooms, backyard, and driveway! Within two years, she will be given official ownership of her home.

The perseverance and determination of Seeds of Literacy students is truly inspiring. Seeds of Literacy is often students’ first step towards larger goals, and it’s amazing to witness their journey.


Devonta D: What advice would you give to other nonprofit leaders who too are in this space of closing health inequities or lessons you learned that you would like to share with nonprofit leaders?

Kerry K: I think the most important advice is to not be afraid to make mistakes. Be confident in your decisions. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way of acting in the best interest of the people you serve.


Devonta D: How can people get involved?

Kerry K: I’m excited to share that Seeds of Literacy is having a record-breaking year! We are proud to have served more than 1,400 students in 2023, we’ve had 126 people earn their high school equivalency, and 233 have passed at least one section of the exam.

We are thrilled with these numbers; however, volunteer recruitment is not keeping pace with student enrollment. We have a significant need for volunteer tutors. People are often surprised to hear how easy it is to become a tutor. There are no prerequisites and everyone has something to offer. We provide extensive training and ongoing support. We are considerate of tutor preferences (tutors often express a strong preference or disdain for math!) and make sure that tutors are comfortable and confident with the material. Tutors are not required to commit to a set schedule and are welcome to participate onsite or in the Virtual Classroom.

It’s wonderful to see the close relationships that often form between tutors and students. It is truly a rewarding experience.



If you’re interested in joining Seeds of Literacy, become a volunteer today and learn more about their work


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