After the pandemic shut down the in-person programs provided by Literacy Connects, the local nonprofit group had to create an online model for the classes and tutoring sessions it provides for adults and children.

The group is trying to reach as many of the 55,000 children and adults it typically serves each year as it can during this very atypical year – with help from TEP.

TEP has donated a total of $150,000 over the past three years to help Literacy Connects promote literacy and creative expression among clients of all ages. Like all our contributions, the funds come from corporate resources and are not recovered from customers through electric rates.

The contributions reflect TEP’s philanthropic focus on education. Each year, TEP contributes more than $1 million to nonprofit groups and activities that support learning and expand educational opportunities in our community.

“The fact that TEP was willing to make a significant, three-year commitment is huge because it gives us a known source of support for multiple years,” said Executive Director Betty Stauffer. “We’re not constantly scrounging. To know that we have three years of support is a tremendous help.”

The funding was especially helpful this year when the group faced unexpected expenses and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adult Programs

For the adult programs, Literacy Connects began teaching GED classes online in both English and Spanish, as well as English as a Second Language and adult basic literacy. Because the classes rely heavily on volunteers as tutors, staff members trained those volunteers to lead individual or small group lessons virtually.

Many adult basic literacy students lack home computers, connectivity or don’t know how to use them. The group began a small lending library of Chromebooks and taught students how to use the technology.

Because the group’s adult students come from about 70 different countries and speak about 40 languages, the organization started using a translation app called Talking Points. The app allows a user to send a text in English and it translates the text into other languages.

After the free trial ran out, the TEP grant helped pay for the license to continue the service for about 500 students.

Elementary School Program

TEP regularly supports the Reading Seed program, which connects volunteer coaches with students in schools. Volunteers have been unable to meet with children in-person because many schools began with remote learning to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Instead, this fall, Literacy Connects is starting an online family program to train parents to help their young children learn to – and love to – read.

“That’s something that Reading Seed had considered before the pandemic, so we decided to just do it,” Stauffer said. “There are so many families struggling to homeschool their kids or help with online learning that we thought there would be a lot of parents who would benefit from this training.”

At a few local schools with dedicated classrooms to the Reading Seed program, Literacy Connects plans to assign a staff member to monitor children, who will meet with their tutors online, when in-person classes resume.

On Oct. 9, TEP is sponsoring the group’s annual fundraiser, a drive-in event called Get Connected with Literacy Connects. Learn more and register for the event.

Other Education Programs

The Literacy Connects program is part of TEP’s focus on education. Other grants include:

Junior Achievement – A $40,000 grant will provide in financial literacy and workforce development programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students from limited-income families. Read a previous story about TEP’s Junior Achievement support.

Educational Enrichment Foundation – A multi-year, $150,000 grant funds science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons in Tucson Unified School District, called Power Up Grants. Read about an electric fashion show funded by the grants.

Tucson Values Teachers – TEP has donated $250,000 over the last five years to help Tucson Values Teachers purchase gift cards for teachers for school supplies. See a previous story about TEP’s donation to Tucson Values Teachers.

This story is part of our ongoing series highlighting one of TEP’s philanthropic focus areas – education. TEP works with nonprofit partners to develop invitation-based donation requests for education efforts. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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