Literacy and adult education in North Lawndale

A partnership between Front & Center and Vocalo.org's Barber Shop Show

August 27, 2012

Front and Center

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(Anthony Martinez/Front and Center)
Guests Darren Tillis and Tameeka Christian work to expand education opportunities in North Lawndale.

On August 24, the Barber Shop Show joined forces with Front and Center to talk low literacy and adult education in North Lawndale. In the Great Lakes region, one third of adults are low-literate. This means they have trouble with ordinary tasks like filling out a job application.

When hard times hit the region, North Lawndale is hit harder. The unemployment rate in this neighborhood is about three times the city’s average. Almost half of families here live below the poverty line.

When it comes to getting more North Lawndale residents employed and lifting their earning potential, the key may be improving literacy. Raising adult education levels seems like a clear-cut way to increase employment and earnings. But making it happen isn’t easy.

To find out more, Richard Steele and Kimbriell Kelly spoke with Nicole Hicks, a woman who recently overcame her fear of being the oldest person in class to earn her GED at age forty.

Later in the show, we heard from employer Mark O’Hara. A GED and solid reading and writing skills are a requirement at his company. We learned about his challenges finding workers with the skills to kill bugs, and how his company, Andersen Pest Solutions, aims to address the skills gap.

After that, we were joined by Darren Tillis and Tameeka Christian with the North Lawndale Community Action Council on Education. Darren and Tameeka are working to improve parent engagement in North Lawndale schools. Key to their strategy is increasing literacy.

Every Friday, Vocalo.org heads to Carter's Barber Shop in North Lawndale for the live broadcast of The Barber Shop Show.  Hosted by the Chicago Reporter's Kimbriell Kelly and WBEZ's Richard Steele, The Barber Shop Show is a weekly dose of real talk, straight from the shop floor.