Alumni Spotlight: Codi Tranel

We have an impressive community of former Literacy First tutors spread throughout the world. In this blog post, meet Codi, whose most memorable student began with Literacy First unable to write his name. His progress with the program helped influence Codi’s career path.

By Codi Tranel, Literacy First Tutor from 2010-2012

After graduating college, I knew I wanted to do a year or two of service. I considered Peace Corps, but decided AmeriCorps would be a better fit. I randomly stumbled upon Literacy First (then called ACE) through the AmeriCorps website, applied, was accepted and moved to Austin. Being from Wisconsin, I had never been to Austin prior to my year of service, but quickly fell in love with the city and ended up staying for four years. I learned so much during my time with Literacy First and made many great friends that I am still in touch with today.

I have so many wonderful stories of my time as a tutor at Literacy First and could tell you numerous stories of the trials and triumphs of my students. However, there is one student in particular I will never forget. His name is Andrew, and I began working with him about halfway through his kindergarten year. When Andrew and I first began he couldn’t recognize any letters of the alphabet, and struggled to write his name, starting by writing it right to left.

Andrew was a bright student and eager to learn. After a month working together, Andrew proudly wrote his name all on his own (photo below). His face lit up after realizing what he’d accomplished, and he looked at me and said “Ms. Codi, I wrote my name! I can’t believe it! Can I keep this to show my mom?”

It was such a joy seeing the confidence of all of my students and their love for reading grow and grow with each tutoring session. My time with Literacy First was an invaluable introduction to a devoted community of educators focused on their students’ success, but it was also an eye-opening experience to the reality of educational and economic disparities. This led me to pursue my Masters of Social Work at University of Texas at Austin.

After graduating, I moved to Chicago to try and share my love for fighting educational disparities by becoming a Program Manager at City Year AmeriCorps. In my interview, I told them about the amazing, supportive supervisors I had at Literacy First and that I wanted to carry on that legacy for the next cohort of AmeriCorps members.

Wanting to continue my service beyond my City Year job, I began working with community centers across Chicago, writing curriculum for their after-school programs. This led me to meeting a friend who was working to start a nonprofit. I jumped on board, and within one year we had the non profit up and running and I was able to move over to it full-time.

Having learned all the ins and outs of nonprofits, I was ready for my next challenge, and landed in my current role, in which I oversee social enterprises and work to encourage more conscious corporate social responsibility. Literacy First wasn’t just a stepping stone, but more of a launching pad for me. My students, as well as the staff and my fellow AmeriCorps members at Literacy First, profoundly impacted my life, and this is why I continue to donate to and support the program to this day and moving forward, because everyone deserves the chance that I was given.

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