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The History of ReadWest

Read November 7, 2009 - 20th Anniversary Celebration
Prepared by Yvonne Wise
 
ReadWest began as the Westside Literacy Literacy Volunteers in 1988 and was the brainchild of Barbara King, Corrales librarian who contacted the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy to ask for assistance in beginning a literacy project to serve Westside residents. The service area was Taylor Ranch, Paradise Hills, Corrales, Rio Rancho and Bernalillo.
 
Melinda Taylor was 23 when she first heard about the new literacy program at a November 1988 meeting at the Corrales Library. The new literacy program was housed in the Corrales Library until 1990 when they moved to the United Way Westside Service Center in All saints Lutheran Church. The Coalition sent a trainer from Taos to train the first 28 tutor volunteers and help the new coordinator get started.
 
Seventy tutors and students worked on student goals the first year. Structure for the literacy program; free one-to-one tutoring by volunteers and strict adherence to meeting student-identified goals, is essentially the same now as it was in 1989. The Westside program was affiliated with the national Literacy Volunteers of America which has morphed with Laubock Literacy into Pro Literacy America.
ReadWest is still a fully accredited member of the national organization.
 
The first Board of Directors, appointed to set goals and gain community support for the organization, were Rudy Grado, president; Claire Harrison, vice-president; Pam Mckellar, secretary; John Jennings, treasurer; Rudolfo Anaya; David Mathews; Genie Ryan; Tom Swisstack; Jim Tincom and Alois Weber.
 
Goals set by the first board included increased visibility for the organization and more interaction with other adult literacy efforts in New Mexico.
 
The new board approved the name change to ReadWest and the Articles of Incorporation for ReadWest, Inc.-LVA were signed by Melinda Taylor, Alois Weber and James Tinkom on December 14, 1989 and formally filed with the state of New Mexico.
 
ReadWest was welcomed to Rio Rancho by Mayor Pro Tem Carl M. Zander on February 2, 1989.
 
Melinda's husband was transferred by Intel soon after that and the board hired its first salaried director, Jeanette Miller, with a grant from the Kellogg Foundation in December 1990.
 
Jeanette served without staff, in donated office space in the Panorama Plaza on Sara Road, but when a paying customer came along and displaced the the program, Jeanette, with a few dedicated office volunteers, kept the program alive and supported 70 tutors and a few students while operating out of her own kitchen.
 
ReadWest moved to new quarters at the Rio Rancho Car Care Center in August 1992. Mim and Dave Heil and Brian and Pat Frieder of Car Care Ltd provided the 400 square foot office space. City Councilor Tony Popper helped bring the owners and ReadWest together and the Frieders generously paid ReadWest's utilities. Mayor Tom Swisstack started the grand opening ceremonies with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
 
The three year old adult literacy tutoring program was awarded $7,000 by the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy that year. The grant was primarily to develop an English as a Second Language component - in addition to the basic reading improvement program of ReadWest today.
 
ReadWest was awarded a grant with salary for the first Volunteer Coordinator in 1995.
 
Notice to vacate the Car Center came the summer of 1995; again because a paying customer showed up. ReadWest's Volunteer librarians came to the rescue by contacting the Rio Rancho Jewish Center. Jeanette had taken a position with the Rio Rancho School District and the Volunteer Coordinator / Director was relieved a new location was so quickly found.
 
Mr. Lapidus was the teacher for the Center's Hebrew School. When thanked for allowing the literacy program to share space with the children, he said, "You do good work and we should have you here."
 
Board Member Roger McNiel, director of the Rio Rancho Community Corrections Center, arranged for some of his rehabilitated prisoners to move ReadWest to the Jewish Center on March 16, 1996. 
This was entirely fitting help since 75% of incarcerated individuals can not read well enough to fill out a job application.
 
ReadWest has grown from a single room to a a full Literacy Center with 6 class rooms for student and tutor meetings, a tutor training site and a large space for student group classes. ReadWest owes tremendous gratitude to the Rio Rancho Jewish Center for believing in our "good work" and for providing this comfortable, inviting place where adult students can find help with their debilitating low literacy needs.
 
The non-profit budget for 2009-10 is $93,000, a far cry from the $7,000 in 1992. Today ReadWest trains and supports 186 tutors who help more than 300 students - still with two extraordinary part-time staff, Will Steinsiek and Muncie Hansen, a working Board and wonderful office volunteers.
 
ReadWest is the longest, continuously operation adult literacy organization in the greater Albuquerque area. We attribute this to the quality and dedication of the staff and to the dedicated volunteers who provide thousands of hours each year. The value of this service to the community is enormous, but the value to individuals is life changing. Literacy is generational - passed on from generation to generation - so, the value to future generations is immeasurable.
 
ReadWest Directors who followed Melinda and who have contributed so much to the growth and success of our award-winning organization:
 
ReadWest Directors from 1990 to 2009
  • Jeanette Miller 1990-1995
  • Yvonne Wise 1995-1999
  • Elizabeth Thompson 1999-2002
  • Patricia Quinn 2002
  • Pat Wheling (acting Director)
  • Cindy Hibler (2002-2004)
  • Susan Markin-Ryerson (2004-2008)
  • Will Steinsiek (2008-present)