Ken Montgomery, Founding Board Member

KenMontgomeryKen Montgomery is one of our founding members. Over the years, he’s been involved in many volunteer projects with many organizations. Literacy training, though, has been his passion.

He discusses in the following Q&A his support for our Coalition and how his service changed his own life, which he summarized this way: “One of the most rewarding benefits I have enjoyed is seeing an individual read for the first time.”

Why did you originally get involved with Literacy Coalition? What did you want to accomplish?

As the executive director of the Private Industry Council, Inc., which was charged with serving economically disadvantaged and unemployed individuals in obtaining employment, I was visiting one of our offices when I found applications in the parking lot. No one seemed to know why, so I waited in the parking lot and saw a gentleman drop an application. I went over and picked up the application and stopped him to tell him he had dropped the application. He told me he didn’t need it and I informed him that if he completed it he would get training for a job. I soon realized during our discussion that he had tossed the application because he could neither read nor write.

I was blown away that someone could not read or write. Within a week of that occurrence while working late one night, the maintenance man whom I had befriended with light conversations for several years and who also had worked for over 30 years with a waste company asked me if I could give him some help. I said sure. He said that he had run a stop sign and was required to go to driver’s education school and was preparing for a test. So he showed me the book and referenced a sentence he didn’t understand. I read the sentence and saw it was a simple question and told him the obvious answer. He looked at me puzzled. I said here you read the sentence and that ‘s when he told me he couldn’t read. And yet he had worked for thirty years often working two jobs at a time.

The next day I contacted the Adult Education Dept. and came to learn that the individuals that I wanted to help were below the minimum level for their classes and at their non-reading levels tutors are used to get them to a level where they can begin their classes. For many of the unemployed, literacy is an impediment to finding employment. We implemented a literacy program using another program, the Principles of the Alphabetic Literacy System (PALS), that was an interactive computer system to begin training low-level readers. We also partnered with the Dept. of Adult Education that placed staff in each of our offices to oversee the instruction. This program assisted our organization in accomplishing its mission of finding full-time employment for those we served.

We had been operating this program when I was contacted by Gale Howden of The Palm Beach Post. She was researching who was providing literacy training. I discussed that my funding was limited for such a target population and that a greater need existed. I became one of the partners to establish the Coalition to collectively assist all who were in need of literacy skills through a coalition of partners.

How has your involvement in with Literacy Coalition benefitted your life?

Over the past twenty-five years I have met so many committed volunteers, tutors, educators, employers, elected officials, retirees and others who have worked to help others learn to read. They have enriched my life and had it not been for the Literacy Coalition, these opportunities would not have happened. However, the most rewarding benefits I have enjoyed is seeing an individual read for the first time. It’s incredible to see the person’s beaming face and that sense of accomplishment knowing that nothing can hold him back from progressing into a totally new world with renewed confidence and self-esteem.

What kind of impact does Literacy Coalition have on our community?

The awareness that such a need exists has been a huge impact. I never realized myself that such a need existed, often thinking that those who were unemployed and low achievers were lazy, etc. The fact that individuals could possibly not be able to read was an incredible awakening to the realty of how many people are limited in finding a job or achieving their full potential. Children and parents bonding through reading, and students better prepared for school, has been one of the many successes of raising the awareness.

 If Literacy Coalition wasn’t here, what would our community be like without it?

We would have a higher unemployment rate and many of our students would be achieving at a lower level. There would also be a higher crime rate and lack of understanding by many of us as to why individuals are not in the workforce. In addition, we’d have misunderstanding by businesses as to the true reason why individuals are not applying for their jobs. And, of course, many individuals would not reach their potential.