Adult education: Providing the building blocks for success

Literacy Pittsburgh helps Western Pennsylvania’s underserved with the three R’s—and so much more

It’s been said that literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.

And in the Steel City, Literacy Pittsburgh helps the economically disadvantaged get a little more bang for their buck.

“We help people to undertake education and training that they were never able to before due to a variety of life barriers,” says Maria Polinsky, Literacy Pittsburgh’s director of marketing and communications. “Our high-impact, no-cost programming helps thousands of people annually.”

Literacy Pittsburgh supports nearly 5,000 people every year by offering free educational programs for adults and families to improve their reading, writing, math, English language, and general workplace skills. Concentrated on the Allegheny and Beaver counties, tutoring and classes help move students from learners to workers, and also give students the opportunity to obtain high school equivalency credentials.

“We have many programs that, combined, help develop the student’s employability as a whole,” says Polinsky. “From academic skills to computer literacy and career guidance, we do everything we can to make sure students come out with skills that can help them secure a job with family-sustaining wages.”

This year, the organization is celebrating a major milestone: 40 years of helping students acquire practical skills and gain employment.

Founded as an all-volunteer organization, Literacy Pittsburgh continues to rely on trained volunteer tutors to deliver its programs. Last year, 42% of students were taught by volunteers—and achieved the same outcomes as students enrolled in classes with paid professional instructors.

Since its inception in 1982, Literacy Pittsburgh has dedicated itself to bettering the lives of community members in the greater Pittsburgh area by helping students gain economic self-sufficiency. The organization is hyper-focused on interrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty, which can affect anyone at any age.

“We’re not just focused on professional development here, but personal as well,” says Polinsky. “People need to have both the skills and confidence necessary to pursue their goals, and we create an environment where students can thrive.”

In recent months, Enbridge made a $7,500 Fueling Futures grant to Literacy Pittsburgh as part of our commitment to vibrant and sustainable communities. The funding helps to cover costs such as curriculum development, professional development for instructors and promotion of the programs.

Literacy Pittsburgh serves a critical population of underserved communities, of whom the vast majority belong to a minority group. Of all students, 57% are unemployed or underemployed, and 37% lack high school credentials.

Polinsky says inclusion is top of mind for Literacy Pittsburgh, and underserved workers, parents, and adults of any background are accepted to the programming.

“Those who go through our programs are given the tools that equip them to create a brighter future, both for themselves and their families.”