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LEAP celebrates 30 years of educating Richmond adults

on September 30, 2014

Hugs and congratulatory handshakes were exchanged last Sunday as the Literacy for Every Adult Program (LEAP) celebrated 30 years of teaching in Richmond.

As several hundred attendees bounced from information tables to carts of free books, music from the Hilltop Ukulele Lovers Academy played throughout the quad of the Civic center.

“I owe it all to LEAP to be honest,” said Kendell Biggers, a 2010 LEAP graduate and GED recipient. “If it wasn’t for LEAP I would just never finish school. I am pretty sure of that.” Biggers is now a student at Contra Costa College.

Graduates, students, and LEAP staff joined Biggers as they thanked program coordinators and returning staff for the years of service to the community.

At the Civic Center, parents, children, and LEAP members enjoyed  a day of celebration that included literacy workshops, interactive story-telling, making original picture books, and a reading and poetry workshop hosted by Richmond’s 2014 Poet Laureates — Donte Clark, Brenda Quintanilla and Lincoln Bergman.

Formed in 1984 LEAP is one of the first library literacy programs in California funded by the state. The costs of sharing its free programs are also subsidized by the Richmond Public Library.

In addition to its reading programs, LEAP offers GED tests, GED content, computer literacy, and one-on-one or small group tutoring for English as a second language students. For those students who can’t come into class, LEAP has just started a web-based GED program.

Performances by traditional Mexican youth folk dancers, local pop singer Linda Ponce, and youth pop rock band 2morrows June spiced up the afternoon.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin administered a proclamation making Sept. 21st literacy day before joining in on raffles for attendees and children.

LEAP started out with three coordinators recruited by California Library services to go out looking for people in the community who are illiterate.

For literacy lab manager, Abigail Sims-Evelyn, LEAP’s 30th anniversary was memorable because her mother was one of her first students.  “The 30th anniversary is an opportunity to pay homage and remember the wonderful days that my mother came to LEAP,” said Sims-Evelyn, nodding at her mother’s picture hanging on the wall, “which for her was one of her lifetime dreams.”

LEAP currently has 234 students enrolled. Over 12,000 students have participated in the past 30 years.

Mary Johnson joined LEAP after not being able to help her seven-year-old with his homework. With LEAP’s help she received her GED and later her Masters in Education. In addition to being able to help with homework if called on, she is now the Program Coordinator for Cooperative Education at Contra Costa College.

Her story is just one of the many success stories LEAP has to tell.

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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