2022 Symposium


Friday, December 9, 2022 | 8:00 A.M. ‚Äď 3:30 P.M. | WMU‚Äôs Fetzer Center | FREE To The Public

2251 Business Court, Kalamazoo, MI 49008 Map

Literacy is the ability to read, write, comprehend, and use technology at a level that empowers an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member. 


This year‚Äôs theme is ‚ÄúCultivating Literacy and Learning at the Neighborhood Level.‚ÄĚ This free, annual event is for anyone who is interested in supporting adult literacy ‚Äď from experienced volunteer tutors and instructors to individuals who want to learn more about how they can serve this important cause, particularly during a time of hybrid learning.¬†

Related: Annual Symposium Celebrates Neighborhood-Based Literacy and Learning in Kalamazoo
Agencies team up for the Right to Literacy and issue a “200 Tutor Challenge”¬†

Symposium content explores best practices for adult literacy instruction. Focus areas include Parent Literacy/Multi-Generational Learning, Health Literacy, Workforce Literacy, English as a Second Language, and Digital Literacy. This university-communitypartnership enhances the growing faculty of tutors, instructors, and supporters who are advancing the status of adult literacy in the region. Participants will receive strategies that help learners thrive in the workplace, manage their health, and become more capable and confident ‚Äúfirst teachers‚ÄĚ of their children. Attendees will also hear ways to better serve English Language Learners and how to create vibrant learning opportunities in virtual and in-person environments.

We are pleased to offer an exciting lineup of dynamic presentations and case studies of innovative approaches to literacy and learning. The keynote, delivered by Community/University Fellow Dr. Karika Parker, will showcase the EDisON “Education is On” initiative, which serves to transform the Edison neighborhood into a vibrant learning community. Read below to see the agenda¬†and¬†list of presenters.

The symposium qualifies for SCECHs. Credit hours are listed below. Forms will be available at the event, both in-person and online, and are due by 5 p.m. on December 15, 2022.  What are SCECHs?
The Adult Literacy Research and Training Symposium is supported in part by YWCA Kalamazoo.

Registration deadline: December 7


  • 8:00 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. Registration
  • 8:15 a.m.- 8:20 a.m. Welcome remarks by Dr. Deveta Gardner
  • 8:20 a.m. – 8:40 a.m. Opening presentation: The Right to Literacy by Michael Evans
  • 8:45 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. – Parent Literacy Together: Our Favorite Books and Stories by¬† Kristhyna Fermin, Kamaria Nichols, Dr. Elizabeth Isidro. The KLC-Parent Literacy Together Program in partnership with Western Michigan University launched a pilot program called ‚ÄúOur Favorite Books and Stories‚ÄĚ in October 2022. The program consisted of a series of in-person sessions that centered on learners’ and their families‚Äô literacy needs and practices. This interactive presentation will highlight and demonstrate the program features as well as a description of the parents’ and children‚Äôs book needs, motivation for learning, and experiences using books. This presentation will also showcase participants‚Äô learning outcomes: they were able to learn new words in English, get more motivated to read in English, were able to interact with their children in more meaningful ways, and get their children more excited to engage with books. The objective of this presentation is to explain how using a multigenerational approach to teach literacy to diverse families has a positive impact in building community and English language learning. (1.0)
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Morning break
  • 10:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. – Digital Skills – It’s Not What It Used To Be: by Jessi Pavey, Katy Laws, Renee Hammond. Do you remember Mavis Beacon, green computer screens, Oregon Trail, DOS, and even Basic? These were the days in which you could just simply enjoy the computer or input data. Digital literacy skills are no longer a thing you¬†MAY¬†want. It is a thing you¬†NEED to be successful. Through this session you will learn how the Kalamazoo Literacy Council created a curriculum giving learners the necessary skills to enhance their lives. You will also hear how Burlington English can help your learner improve their English speaking and employability skills. (1.0)
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – My Journey From Literacy Tutor to Mentor to Tutor:¬†by Katherine Suender, Ed.S.¬†Katherine‚Äôs presentation will include an insider look at what it is like to be a tutor and mentor for refugee resettlement through Bethany Christian Services and how the Kalamazoo Literacy Council is now helping her adult mentees gain essential English literacy skills. (1.0)
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Lunch break
  • 12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – Keynote presentation: Addressing Why Place Matters! The EDISON Project by Dr. Karika Parker. In the Edison neighborhood, Place Matters! represents a vibrant educational community. In this neighborhood, people matter as citizens work, live, play, eat, socialize, and lift up literacy together. Upon conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:
    • Explain why Place Matters! in Kalamazoo‚Äôs largest and most diverse neighborhood.
    • Recognize how the historic photographs (1890s-2022) of the Edison neighborhood showcase numerous community-based partnerships, robust land and housing developments, and an innovative business/industry sector.
    • Explain how culture, history, equity and the social determinants of health have impacted the work of community-university partnerships in the Edison neighborhood.¬†
    • Use the concepts covered in the presentation to further advance the work of Place Matters! using a community-based participatory process to deepen and further expand capacity for change in literacy outcomes for Western Michigan University and the Kalamazoo Literacy Council in the Edison neighborhood. (1.5)
  • 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – Health Literacy:¬†The partnership with KLC and WMU extends to our Health Literacy and Empowerment programming. We teamed up with the Bronson School of Nursing to offer “Feel Good Friday” and “Tune Up Tuesdays.” Nursing students created a lively curriculum filled with tips and strategies that learners could use for themselves and their families.Topics included managing stress, lowering anxiety, and exercising for better mental health. Similarly, students from the School of Social Work created a weekly Empowerment class offering goal setting and other strategies for stress management. Learners gained critical literacy skills through vocabulary and reading aloud, while enjoying fun activities around healthy living and nutrition. (1.0)
  • 3:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Closing remarks: Dr. Luchara Wallace


Dr. Deveta Gardner serves as Associate Dean of Merze Tate College at WMU. During her 25-year tenure at WMU, Dr. Gardner has served the campus community in numerous ways, including as adjunct faculty, past president of College of Education’s Alumni Board of Directors and School University Partnership Team, University One WMU design and Compensation Teams, Black Faculty and Staff Founding Committee, WMU Signature Advisory Board, and the COVID Task Force and University Planning Team, in addition to servings as the WMU Institutional Representative and as a board member for MI-ACE Women’s Network. Dr. Gardner earned a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from WMU, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Howard University in Washington, D.C. As a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, within her other roles in the university, and channeling her passion for mentoring, Dr. Gardner spends most of her time focused on best practices for students so that all may THRIVE, while yielding opportunities for growth and development. Her investment in people extends beyond her role in the university. She has served as cheer coach at Kalamazoo Central High School for over three decades. Additionally, she is active with numerous organizations within the community, regionally, and nationally, including, serving on the boards of the Douglass Community Association and the YWCA. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and volunteers with several organizations throughout the Kalamazoo Community, that support women, youth, education, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In 2021 she was the recipient of the Black Heroes Award from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She also served on the Campaign Cabinet for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council’s 2021 Everyone Needs to Read Annual Campaign. When she is not working or serving, Dr. Gardner enjoys spending time with her family. 

Michael Evans is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and has been with the organization since August 2010. He is the facilitator of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County, which serves as a forum to determine adult literacy priorities, identify and expand resources, and align services and programs in the county. Evans is Vice-Chair of the Region 8 Regional Prosperity Initiative for the State of Michigan. He serves as the Co-Director of the Adult Literacy Research and Training Symposium, which is hosted annually in collaboration with Western Michigan University. He serves on the Advisory Board for the WMU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and on the Board of Directors of Family & Children Services. Before coming to the KLC, Evans worked for 15 years in the nonprofit sector in Battle Creek with several organizations including Community Inclusive Recreation, Summit Pointe, and New Level Sports. He was Executive Director of Heritage Battle Creek and the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek and has served on many statewide boards, including the Michigan Humanities Council, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission, and the Michigan Association of Cultural Arts Associations.   

Dr. Elizabeth Isidro is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Studies at Western Michigan University. She also serves as the Director of the McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic, where she works with teacher candidates and families to support the literacy development of Prek-8th grade students. Her research interests center on socially just literacy teaching through the use of learner-centered and asset-based perspectives, critical theory, and civic engagement. 

Kristhyna Fermín  is a doctoral student at Western Michigan University’s Education and Human Development program. She has been working in the educational field for fifteen years in different capacities, predominantly with adolescents and adults. Her research interests are reading motivation in multilinguals, adolescents, and adults. 

Kamaria Nichols is the KLC’s Parent Literacy Navigator and she joins us from the Discovery Center Preschool and Head Start, where she gained robust experience as an early learning professional. We are excited for her to come onboard to continue building out Parent Literacy Together, working alongside program partners and in our Little Scholars Child Development Center. She’ll also be helping to create and manage our Family Literacy Days planned for this spring/summer in the Read and Seed Interpretive Learning Center. Through these activities, she will engage parents in literacy-based family fun as they become more confident first teachers for their children. She is a Kalamazoo native and loves that it’s small yet culturally, socio-economically, and religiously diverse which makes it a great place to raise children. She looks forward to creating a parent council to help them take ownership and feel empowered in their family’s literacy journey. Kamaria is a breast cancer survivor of eight years and loves shopping, movies, and spending time with her famiy including her five grandchildren. Fun fact: she has a tshirt that says “Literacy is my jam!”¬†¬†

Jessi Pavey is the Operations Manager for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, where she is responsible for assisting the organization’s more than 700 learners in reaching their goals. In 2011, she joined the organization as a work study student from Davenport University. Within a year, she was promoted to  Student Services Coordinator. She is certified as a data management specialist and is regarded as an expert in multiple data and computer-based instruction platforms, including MAERS, PLATO Courseware, CASAS, and TABE. She developed the KLC’s computer class curriculum and trains volunteers as instructors. She also is a trained Navigator and assists in training new Navigators.  

Katy Laws is the KLC’s Adult Learning Services Navigator. In her role, she assists learners who want to obtain their GED and those seeking to strengthen their employability skills. She leads the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program as well as the writing and computer classes. She also supports the Edison Early Childhood Education Career Pathway by providing wraparound services to program participants. Before joining the KLC, Katy worked as an E-commerce specialist at Goodwill Industries managing online sales and inventory.¬†¬†

Renee Hammond joins us from Gull Lake Community Schools where she served for 14 years in several roles with varying levels of responsibilities. Renee primarily taught Spanish to middle schoolers and in that role helped design engaging and skills-driven curriculum for novice and heritage English speakers. She also accepted additional leadership positions including serving as Department Chairperson for the Unified Arts, to create meaningful literacy and cross-curricular experiences for students and their families. For the KLC, Renee will be the ESL Adult Learning Services Navigator, serving English language learners and providing support to instructors and volunteer tutors. One reason she was attracted to this role was to expand her reach into the ESL adult learner population and knowledge of their unique needs. She’s excited to continue working through curriculum ideas and looks forward to broadening her connections in the community. Renee is a WMU Bronco who is originally from Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband live in Kalamazoo with two cats, Maxine and Bobby. Renee loves to kayak any chance she gets.¬†

Katherine Suender, Ed.S. is a retired teacher and doctoral literacy education student at Western Michigan University. Katherine has taught K-6 students for 25 years and is currently completing the fourth year of her Ph.D. in literacy studies at Western. In addition to being a full-time student, Katherine is a teaching assistant for the Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies department at WMU and a volunteer/mentor for Bethany Christian Services in Kalamazoo, specializing in refugee resettlement of unaccompanied minors and young adults. Her passion is to help refugees, people learning English as a new language who are new to the U.S., become valued and participatory members of the greater Kalamazoo community and economy. 

Karika Ann Parker, Ph.D. joined the KLC at the recommendation of Dr. Joe Kretovics, her
dissertation chair, at Western Michigan University where she was a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership/Organizational Analysis. In her role at the KLC as a 2022 Community/University Fellow, she will support the EDisON ‚ÄúEducation is On‚ÄĚ initiative, which serves to transform the Edison neighborhood into an immersive learning community. The project will feature various learning experiences including skills-building classes, outdoor activities, and professional development opportunities. Dr. Parker has an extensive background
in the facilitation of developmental processes and structures for organizations in critical thinking,
organizational assessment tools and analysis, policy development, board relations, and complex adaptive systems theory as a Certified TOPs master trainer and facilitator. As an educator and a proud graduate of KPS Adult Education, Dr. Parker has a deep and personal relationship to literacy. She is passionate about using her background and skills to ‚Äúhelp others open their eyes in a different way,‚ÄĚ and is excited to watch literacy grow and learning flourish in the neighborhood. One of the things she loves about the KLC is that ‚Äúpeople are made to feel whole, and we‚Äôre here to support them.‚ÄĚ At WMU, Dr. Parker was a member of the first graduating class of Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholars, a Thurgood Marshall Fellow, a recipient of the PastorOnCall Ministries, Inc. Dissertation Scholarship, Patricia L.Thompson Dissertation Award, Wegenke Endowed Dissertation Award, University Dames
Endowed Scholarship and is a Presidential Scholar. Dr. Parker earned both her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Black Americana Studies and Masters in U. S. History from Western Michigan University.  
Angel¬†Hopkins is earning her bachelor’s degree in social work at Western Michigan University, and is interning with the KLC until Spring 2023. Her work will include providing direct service to native English speakers and ESL learners through Empowerment Group.¬†Angel‘s area of interest is in working with populations facing re-entry, helping them to become successful after incarceration. She recognizes the negative impact of low literacy on securing employment, for example, and wants to impact change to help avoid recidivism.¬†Angel¬†believes Kalamazoo is rich in resources for providing support services to underserved and marginalized communities. She was born and raised in Kalamazoo where she lives with her 10-year old daughter and their chihuahua, Mia.
Sondra Dalton received her associate’s degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and is now studying for her bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University. Her internship extends until Spring 2023 and she is working with¬†Angel¬†Hopkins on creating engagement ideas and curriculum for learner Empowerment Group. The group focuses on critical tasks like goal setting and time management, while also reinforcing good communication skills and healthy interpersonal relationships. Sondra has experience working in homes that serve adults with disabilities and says she’s interested in helping that population enhance their literacy skills. She is also mom to two adult children who are special needs, and her work experience helped her learn how to better advocate for them. Sondra lives in Plainwell with her family and seven adorable cats.
Dr. Luchara Wallace is the Director of the Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations and an Associate Professor in Special Education where she leads research and advocacy on topics such as juvenile incarceration, generational wealth attainment, and policies impacting families and individuals with disabilities. Prior to her appointment as Director of the Walker Institute, Dr. Wallace taught courses in the Learning Disabilities endorsement block and was a co-principal investigator on the Turnaround School Leaders Project, which was a federal grant designed to turnaround priority schools and develop a leadership pipeline within the partner districts. Dr. Wallace is currently engaging in research related to the development of an off-campus alternative to school suspension in an effort to interrupt the school to prison pipeline for at-risk middle and high school students. Most recently, Dr. Wallace developed a summer youth employment program based upon preliminary results from the alternative to school suspension research and feedback from incarcerated youth.

Keep in touch

Sign up to our mailing list for occasional news & announcements.

Kalamazoo Literacy Council is a member organization of ProLiteracy. 

Follow us on social media!