More than 100 community leaders gathered to recognize the individuals and organizations that have supported Project Learn of Summit County and its goal to fight illiteracy in Summit County.
The agency hosted its 7th Annual Leaders for Literacy Breakfast on March 5, 2008 to raise awareness about Project Learn and the services it provides and recognize individuals and organizations that have helped in the agency’s dedication to serving the 45,000 people in Summit County who are illiterate.
This year, Project Learn recognized the Charles E. & Mabel M. Ritchie Memorial Foundation, Akhia Public Relations, Oriana House, Inc., and Teresa Pace.
“This year’s award winners serve as models for how others can get involved in improving our efforts to increase adult literacy here in Summit County,” said Rick McIntosh, Executive Director of Project Learn.
NFL player and former Ohio State University running back, Antonio Pittman served as the fundraiser’s community host, and Terry Pluto, author and Plain Dealer sports columnist, as keynote speaker.
Both talked about the value and importance of literacy, and will shared his personal goals to improve literacy in the community.
Following the breakfast, Pittman visited the agency’s main campus to speak to GED students. During the meet and greet, he shared his education experience with the students.
“I was not always the best student,” Pittman said. “I was suspended 28 times and was expelled twice during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. It was then when I realized if I didn’t straighten up, there would be no football.”
Pittman told the students that without getting an education and obtaining a certain GPA, he wouldn’t have gotten recruited by Ohio State University, nor would he have been drafted into the NFL.
“You can’t do anything without an education,” he said. “You should be commended for going back to get your GED. Without an education, it would be hard to survive in society.”
Project Learn student Tonya Morris enjoyed listening to Pittman, and said she will take what he said back to her son, who is experiencing the same distractions Pittman did when he was a teen.
“Antonio (Pittman) was really down to Earth,” she said. “He didn’t act like he was better than us just because he is in the NFL. He is encouraging and a role model to young guys in this area.”
He is an example to our students of hard work and dedication, McIntosh agreed.
“Antonio understands our students,” he added. “He represents the fasting growing segment of the population that is coming to Project Learn, which is the 16 to 24 year old.”
Pittman said he is honored to serve as encouragement to Project Learn students.
“I have witnessed first-hand the importance of education and literacy and the impact and improvement that literacy programs like Project Learn make in our community,” Pittman said. “It’s a privilege that these students, even though many are older that I am, look up to me. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that are I am a god person for them to look up to.”
McIntosh said he is pleased with the breakfast’s outcome and excited to work with Pittman to reach out to students that need to earn their GED.
“The breakfast was a success,” McIntosh said. “But anytime we can share our mission with the community is a success.”
Project Learn of Summit County is a nonprofit, community-based organization providing Summit County’s non-reading adult population with free, confidential, small group classes and tutoring. For more information, call Project Learn at 330-434-9461 or visit www.projectlearnsummit.org.