Bittersweet Farewell; Bright Futures

Dear Friends of Literacy First,

My heart is so full after an absolutely perfect virtual “send-off” celebration on Tuesday. A huge shoutout to Literacy First staff, Advisory Board member Marisol Foster, Charles A. Dana Center friends, and others who planned such a beautiful surprise. Of course, you had me at the opening theme from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers is a personal hero of mine! And the smiles and tears of joy and appreciation just continued throughout. What a joy to see so many dear friends of our program, community partners, former and current tutors, and my wonderful family. Just scrolling through the Zoom gallery of faces brought a flood of memories. I wish I could have said a special hello to each of you and reminisced about the year(s) we worked together.

What a remarkable 25 years this has been. I truthfully could not imagine a more meaningful career than the one I’ve experienced with Literacy First. When I began working with Literacy First, right after completing my Ph.D., I felt unsure of what my professional path would be, and I thought that working for this new AmeriCorps program for a year would help me figure out what was next. And what I discovered was a unique opportunity to combine my literacy expertise, passion for service, and the real need to ensure that all students have the opportunity to become strong readers in those critical first years of school. I was energized by the unique role that well-trained tutors could play in support of K-2 teachers in schools confronting inequity in education. I never dreamed that following this path would lead to where we are now. 

I am immensely proud of the work we have done together, as Literacy First. We have held true to our core values, and to our belief that every child has a fundamental right to literacy. We have created a highly effective intervention program that has the potential to reach thousands more children in Central Texas and beyond. 

And, I know the future of Literacy First will continue to be bright under the leadership of Claire Hagen Alvarado, the new Literacy First Director. The Literacy First team will be formally introducing Claire very soon, but I wanted to share my excitement and my confidence in the deep knowledge and experience that Claire brings to this role. 

Thank you, all, for believing in our mission and bright futures ahead! 

Warmest regards, 

Mary Ellen 

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