2023 Symposium

Adult Literacy Research & Training Symposium

Friday, December 8, 2023 | 8:00 a.m. Р3:30 p.m. | College of Health & Human Services | FREE 

1240 Oakland Drive, 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. 


The Kalamazoo Literacy Council and Western Michigan University are proud to host the 10th annual Adult Literacy Research & Training Symposium! We invite volunteers, partners, students, educators, and literacy advocates from  across the community to join us for a day of learning and sharing experiences.      

This year’s theme is Everyone Needs To Read: Community Literacy in Action. We will share engaging and effective teaching strategies for adult learners in critical areas such as Digital Literacy, English as a Second Language, and Multigenerational Learning. The featured content will be the Edison: “EDucation IS ON” project, an innovative initiative involving neighborhood residents who are creating opportunities that encourage a community that thrives around education. The presentation includes a photo & art exhibit, along with updates on the significant progress made over the past year, like the launch of the new Literacy Lane play street. Attendees will also enjoy a session on artificial intelligence in adult learning and a skills building workshop. Refreshments and a boxed lunch will be served.¬†

State Contiuing Education Clock Hours (SCECHs) are available. Please submit the online form by December 15 at 5:00 p.m. or turn in your form to Jessi in the lobby. 

Directions to the venue: 
GPS to 1240 Oakland Dr. will take you to the corner of Oakland Ave./Oliver St. Turn on Oliver St, then turn on Cass. Follow the drive around to Lot 104, just past the circle drive on the left. Parking in Lot 104 is free for the day. 

This is a hybrid event. Questions? Email us! 


8:00 – 8:15 a.m. Registration

8:15 – 8:20 a.m. Welcome Remarks: Interim Dean Jennifer Harrison, College of Health & Human Services

8:20 – 8:40 a.m. Opening Presentation, Michael Evans, KLC Executive Director

8:45 Р9:45 a.m. Storytelling & Story Walks for Multigenerational Learning: Kamaria Snell, Parent Literacy Navigator, Kym Hollars, Adult Education & Training Manager, and Bill Caskey, Manager, KPL Alma Powell Branch 

This presentation will discuss the impact of storytelling and how to empower parents to influence their children to become strong readers and writers. We will show how we correlate books used in story walks to College and Career Readiness Standards that employ multi-generational learning strategies to increase the involvement of parents in their children’s education. The presentation will also include extension activities parents can utilize to increase the learning experience beyond “just reading the book.‚ÄĚ These activities allow both children and parents to enjoy creative thinking, arts, mathematics, vocabulary, and more.

9:45 Р10:00 a.m. Break 

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Ethical Use of AI in Adult Learning: Abbey Weathers, Volunteer & Internship Coordinator and Sarah Freye, Volunteer Tutor

This workshop will serve as an introduction to Large Language Models (LLM) like ChatGPT, and explore how adult literacy practitioners can use artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool for creating lesson plans, assessments, and assignments for adult learners. The session will feature examples of how to write an effective prompt to get ideal results and will address the ethical considerations of using AI as a partner in education.

10:00 -11:00 a.m. Unlocking the Power of the Digital Age (Part 1): Jessi Pavey, Operations Manager, Tameca Black, Adult Learning Services Navigator, and Louie Paras, Customer Manager, Burlington English

In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, digital literacy has become an essential skill set for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. From basic to advanced skills, acquiring digital literacy is crucial in order to navigate the vast and ever-expanding digital landscape. In this session, we will explore the importance of digital literacy and how it can empower learners in their personal and professional lives. We will focus on typing, developing basic to advanced skills, using the Aztec online learning platform, and Burlington English software.

11:00 – 12:00 p.m. Music & Movement in ESL: Lupita Flores, ESL Navigator and Raechal Smith, WMU

Music & movement are great ways to teach English language learners new vocabulary words and concepts through the lyrics of a song. During the course of the Summer and Fall sessions of ESL classes, adult learners were able to dissect different songs and use rhythmic movements to the song in a way that included audio, visual, and tactical adult learning styles. We also used a variety of activities. The songs were strategically chosen with repetitive phrases and easy, repetitive movements to keep the learners engaged.

11:00 Р12:00 p.m. Unlocking the Power of the Digital Age (Part 2) Open lab for hands-on interaction with the digital learning curriculum and software. 

12:00 Р12:45 p.m. Lunch 

12:45 – 2:15 p.m. Edison “EDucation IS ON” Project & Photovoice, featuring the Edison Resident Scholars

2:15 Р3:15 p.m. Science of Reading & Structured Literacy, Kristen Potts, CEO, and Lisa Gromalski, Program Director, SLD Read 

This workshop is an in-depth discussion around the Science of Reading and structured literacy.  Topics include the key elements of structured literacy and reading, instructional methods of structured literacy and how structured literacy supports readers of all ages and levels.

3:15 Р3:30 p.m. Being a Literacy Advocate, Michael Evans, KLC Executive Director


Dr. Jennifer Harrison first joined Western as a part-time instructor in 2006 while also working as program manager for Integrated Services of Kalamazoo. She joined Western as a full-time faculty member in 2011. Throughout her tenure in Western’s School of Social Work, where she has been director for the last four years, Harrison has served as both faculty specialist and traditionally ranked faculty.

In addition to social work, Dr. Harrison is also a chemical addictions counselor. Her clinical work focuses on individuals with co-occurring needs involving mental and substance use disorders. Her research includes international social justice and peer services in behavioral health. Those interests drive her work as co-principal investigator‚ÄĒalongside colleagues Drs. Carla Adkison-Johnson, Ann Chapleau and Bridget Weller‚ÄĒon two projects funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration focused on the interprofessional behavioral health workforce: The Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence Recovery¬† program, which provides training for current and future behavioral health professionals, and the Michigan Youth Prevention and Recovery for Opioid Use Disorders program. Dr. Harrison also worked with Chapleau to develop and find funding for a secure outcome measure called Goal Scaling Solutions. Her record of collegiality and interdisciplinarity also earned her the 2019 College of Health and Human Services Interprofessional Collaboration Award as well as a fellowship with the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.

With an emphasis on field work and hands-on learning, Dr. Harrison has been lauded for her work with students. She received the 2014-15 College of Health and Human Services Teaching Excellence Award as well as earning the inaugural New York Times in Education Award for Innovation and Education Abroad in 2018 alongside Dr. Timothy Palmer, professor of management, for incorporating the Times in the Social Justice and Sustainability course they co-taught in India. The same year she won the Faculty Global Engagement Award at Western. Dr. Harrison also received the Gary L. Belleville Student Supervisor of the Year Award at Western in 2021-22 and was named runner up for 2022 Student Employee Supervisor of the Year by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators.

Michael D. Evans is Executive Director and Chief Literacy Advocate 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. 

Kamaria Snell is the KLC’s Parent Literacy Navigator. One of her key responsibilities is building the Parent Literacy Together program, working alongside partners and in our Little Scholars Child Development Center. She also leads the monthly Family Literacy Day events held May РNovember in the Read and Seed community garden at Goodwill Industries. Through these activities, she engages 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 of and feel empowered in their family’s literacy journey. 

Bill Caskey is Manager of the Alma Powell Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. He worked as a Youth Services librarian in British Columbia and then in Ontario before moving back to Kalamazoo in November 2008 to work at KPL’s Downtown Central Library Children’s Room. Bill served as the Children’s Room Lead Librarian there until January 2022. He is a musician who believes that making music is for everyone, maybe especially the youngest among us and those who care for them. As such, Bill hopes you’ll visit the Kalamazoo Public Library to try out the keyboards, guitars, ukuleles, percussion instruments, and recording gear. He is also a trained tutor with the KLC and is a 2023 Literacy Advocate of the Year. 

Kym Hollars is the Adult Education and Training Manager for Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan, where she is responsible for directing the organization’s GED preparation program. She has been with Goodwill since 2012. She is a GED instructor with Kalamazoo Adult Education, where she teaches a class at Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Prior to her current position, she was the Navigation and Financial Wellness Manager at Goodwill, where she was responsible for increasing participants’ self-sufficiency by connecting team members to resources in their communities in all Goodwill locations in southwest Michigan. She is an expert Navigator and leads training workshops in the subject in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. Kym is also an active volunteer with the KLC, serving as tutor, tutor trainer, and as the convener of the Navigator Work Group of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County.

Kym earned a degree in Elementary Education at Western Michigan University. She currently holds an active teaching certificate from the State of Michigan and is registered and certified to teach in the Kalamazoo Public Schools at an elementary school level. Her continuing education includes certification as a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) for healthcare in the marketplace. 

Abbey Weathers joined the KLC in August 2023 as the Volunteer & Internship Coordinator. In this role, she provides management and support services to our volunteer faculty and student interns, while focusing on recruitment and engagement. She facilitates the various volunteer needs across programs, coordinates initiatives with college students, and helps with outreach activities and special events. She brings a wealth of non profit experience, including community outreach where she helped amplify the agency’s awareness, and as a campus liaison who successfully coordinated the interests of various groups. Abbey is creative and passionate, and says she fell in love with literacy while providing one on one tutoring to kids who were reading below grade level. She looks forward to working closely with the adult learners, their families, and the volunteers who serve them, helping to build relationships and enrich lives.¬†

Sarah Freye is currently the Associate Director of Early College Programs at Western Michigan University. She is a former high school English teacher, and is pursuing her MA in English and Educational & Instructional Technologies. Her research is focused on the intersection of digital media and education. Her most recent article “Ecocritical Agency in I Was a Teenage Exocolonist” can be found at Sage Publication’s Games & Culture.¬†

Jessi Pavey is the Operations Manager for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, where she is responsible for assisting the organization’s hundreds of 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 Digital Skills curriculum and trains volunteers as instructors. She also is a trained Navigator and assists in training new Navigators. 

Louie Paras the Customer Manager for Burlington English and is an experienced management professional with a 20 year history of working in the higher education, sales, and marketing industries. Louie is highly skilled in new hire training, sales management, marketing and branding, public speaking, interview preparation, and hiring. He is an education professional with a Bachelor of Arts focused in English Language and Literature from Central Michigan University. 

Lupita Flores joined the KLC in Fall 2023 as the ESL Adult Learning Services Navigator, after working most recently as an educational consultant for Teachstone. She is fluent in Spanish and English and spent two years in Mexico teaching English to children. In her role as Navigator, she helps adult learners gain access to the ESL classes and programs they need to reach their academic and life goals. Lupita was attracted in part to the role because it allows her to continue the work of assisting families as they become more confident community members. She is currently working toward her doctoral degree in education with a specialty in early childhood education at National University. 


Kristen Potts is the CEO of SLD Read, a non profit community resource serving West Michigan with programs that strengthen community through literacy. Their mission is to support individuals with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, in achieving lifelong language skills through their multi-sensory tutoring program; assist educators in supporting students with learning disabilities; and help increase community awareness and understanding of literacy issues. Kristen has a BA in Education from WMU, Masters of Public Administration from GVSU, and has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.

Lisa Gromaski is the Program Director for SLD Read, a non profit community resource serving West Michigan with programs that strengthen community through literacy. Their mission is to support individuals with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, in achieving lifelong language skills through their multi-sensory tutoring program; assist educators in supporting students with learning disabilities; and help increase community awareness and understanding of literacy issues. Lisa earned her M.Ed from WMU, and has been a tutor/staff at SLD Read for 28 years.