In Greenville County, more than 40,000 adults lack a high school diploma. More than 20,000 struggle with English fluency. While most find these statistics daunting, for Jocelyn Slaughter these numbers represent the individuals she works with everyday, people with the potential to have a positive impact on the community.
“There’s a great need for adult basic education, as well as English as a second language,” Slaughter says. “We are filling that need, and if we weren’t here, it’d be difficult to help people move forward.”
Jocelyn is the executive director of Greenville Literacy Association (GLA), the county’s primary community-based resource for adult learning. With centers in Greer, Simpsonville, and McAlister Square in Greenville, GLA has been an area presence for more than 50 years, providing a pathway to a better future for thousands with educational needs.
THE COMMUNITY SPIRIT AWARD IS GIVEN TO AN OUTSTANDING LOCAL NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT SERVES THE COMMUNITY THROUGH ITS VITAL PROGRAMS AND THROUGH ITS EXCEPTIONAL EFFORTS TO COMMUNICATE AND PARTNER WITH OTHER NON-PROFITS.
A self-titled lifelong advocate of literacy, Slaughter began her career in the business realm, working corporate jobs for Bank of America and British Petroleum. But the non-profit world was a constant tug at the back of her mind. While tutoring an adult learner, she realized how easy it was for students to fall through cracks in the education system, and when the chance arrived to transfer her commercial skill set to help fill the gaps, she took it. Initially at Miracle Hill Ministries, Slaughter took the helm at GLA last April.
“I really like helping people to get a second chance. That’s a lot of what we do,” Slaughter explains. “We tend to serve people for the long haul.”
And serve they do, through a variety of partnerships and programs. The community-forward organization offers GED and WorkKeys preparation, ESL classes, and recently added career pathway opportunities through Quick Jobs, a co-enrollment program at Greenville Tech, with scholarships available for participants through Greenville’s Rotary Club and Junior League. Last year alone, they assisted more than 1,100 adults with educational and vocational needs.
Cindy Davies, dean of Academic Advancement & Support at Greenville Technical College and a GLA board member since 2014, recognizes the long term benefits these types of programs have on the community as a whole.
“GLA continues to help Greenville adults read, speak English, and pass the GED, but the organization also works to help students find good, sustainable jobs or pathways to college,” Davies says. “GLA is doing its part to enrich the community by helping students earn credentials, find good jobs, and consequently, improve quality of life for themselves and their families.”
“GREENVILLE LITERACY VOLUNTEERS AND LEADERS HELP TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY IN OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH ADULT EDUCATION, REMOVING INTIMIDATION AND HELPING INDIVIDUALS TO ACHIEVE LIFELONG GOALS. THE ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE PROGRAMS FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL ADULTS ARE CRUCIAL TO INCREASING EMPLOYABILITY, WHICH HELPS TO MEET THE INCREASING DEMAND FOR WORKERS IN OUR COMMUNITY.”
—David Sawyer, managing partner and president, The Cliffs Clubs
Slaughter agrees. “Every dollar invested into adult education does yield a benefit to that individual and also to Greenville as a whole.” Acquiring a GED allows participants to qualify for higher paying jobs, which not only positively impacts family life, it also fills a need for Greenville employers looking for qualified workers.
GLA is not simply making educational improvements. Those with the lowest literacy levels are often those in the lowest income levels, so the gift of literacy, the gift of knowledge, the gift of hard and soft skills, has far reaching consequences for good. Through thoughtful leadership, invested volunteers, and the generosity of its supporters, Greenville Literacy Association is working to make the surrounding community, our community, a better place to live life.
“We couldn’t do the work we do without the community,” Slaughter explains. “We are helping our city to be successful.”
LIVE & LEARN:
Through Jocelyn Slaughter’s thoughtful leadership, GLA has assisted more than 1,100 adults this year alone on their journey toward a brighter educational future. To learn more about GLA’s initiatives in the Greenville County community, visit greenvilleliteracy.org.