People of Literacy Mid-South: Seeding Success

People of Literacy Mid-South is a column that takes a close look at the folks that make our organization tick. But today, we’re not looking at a person. Instead, we’re discussing an organization whose support and guidance is valuable to Literacy Mid-South.

seeding success

Seeding Success is not an organization that directly serves individuals. Instead, Seeding Success focuses on helping organizations be more effective in serving their communities. Seeding Success works to create collaborative partnerships, called Collaborative Action Networks (CANs for short) that focus on a particular service area. In their own words:

The Seeding Success Partnership collaborates to ensure every child graduates high school prepared for college, career and success in life.

Seeding Success pulls together K-12 institutions, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and countless other types of organizations to work pursuing equitable educational outcomes for children. The organizations that Seeding Success organizes into CANs agree to focus on a set of goals that are developed beneath the umbrella of Seeding Success’ larger organizational goals:

  • GOAL 1: Every child is prepared for success in school;
  • GOAL 2: Every student is successful in school and graduates prepared for college, career, and success in life;
  • GOAL 3: Every youth who is not in school reconnects to education, training, or employment opportunities;
  • GOAL 4: Every young adult has access to a post-secondary opportunity or career.

These goals are put into practice by arranging the CANs to focus on one of eight academic outcomes. The outcomes that Seeding Success and their organizational CANs are attempting to influence are: Kindergarten Readiness, Third Grade Reading Proficiency, Middle School Math Proficiency, College and Career Readiness, High School Graduation rates, Access to Post Secondary opportunities and attainment of success at those Post Secondary opportunities, and a focus on providing educational and career opportunities to Opportunity Youth. Each CAN works together to provide research informed strategies to impact these areas and ensure that children and young adults will lead successful lives.

education studyingLiteracy Mid-South has a presence in two of those CANs. We are the convener of the Third Grade Reading Proficiency CAN, and we provide space and support to organizations who collaborate to improve the rates of reading proficiency at grade 3 for every Shelby County child. The CAN focuses on three areas that impact reading proficiency for grade 3 students: attendance, literacy, and psychological barriers. The CAN has made vision screenings available for hundreds of grade 3 students through a partnership with the Southern College of Optometry, as well as provided books and literacy instruction to thousands of students through Literacy Mid-South’s Summer Reading Program.

Literacy Mid-South’s Adult Learning Program is involved in the Opportunity Youth CAN, a CAN dedicated to connecting roughly 40,000 local young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not connected to education or employment programs with gainful employment and education opportunities. The Workforce Investment Network is the convener of this CAN, and it includes partnerships with the Memphis Goodwill Excel Center, ResCare, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The CAN has gathered focus group data from former Opportunity Youth and is now developing a report based on the findings.

Seeding Success connects organizations that work in similar impact areas with each other and allows them to exponentially increase their reach and effectiveness. Without Seeding Success’ unique approach to collaboration, many organizations who are working to make Memphis a better place would be shouldering their burdens alone.

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission.



AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associates Are Working to Create a More Literate Mid-South


In our post “Summer Reading With Literacy Mid-South,” we discussed a phenomenon called Summer Slide. Here’s its basic premise: students who don’t engage in educational opportunities during summer vacation risk losing some of the academic gains that they made during the school year. An active summer with reading and literacy focused activities can assist students in retaining key reading abilities, and in some cases, can even help to address the achievement gap. For the past year, Literacy Mid-South has been building and implementing a summer reading program in collaboration with several community partners from all over Memphis. The summer reading program is currently serving thousands of children, providing them with books and reading instruction throughout their summer vacation.

IMG_0028In order to reach over 3000 students and serve 30 organizations, AmeriCorps VISTA provided Literacy Mid-South with 20 Summer Associates who are committed to the cause.  The VISTA members were trained, and provided with the skills they needed to help attack this issue. These AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates are Mid-Southerners dedicated not only to improving summer reading, but also to impressing upon the community the importance of literacy. Each Summer Associate works at a different community partner’s site, and performs reading pre- and post-assessments, serves as a point of contact between the community partner and Literacy Mid-South, and helps to deepen the community partner’s understanding of the importance of ongoing literacy skills training.

Esther Kang, an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate serving at W. H. Brewster Elementary School, thinks that this program is very necessary. During her time there, Esther has gotten to know Memphis a little bit better, and also has gained a deeper understanding of the need for reading intervention. She’s found the work at her site “refreshing, frustrating, and challenging,” but says that it’s a great program. Esther’s most impactful moment was working with a student who read at a significantly lower level than he needed to for school.

“He was just so grateful for the attention and positive reinforcement,” Esther said. “And it’s helped his self-esteem and changed his perspective of reading and learning.”


Rodney Frison is a Human Services Major at the University of Memphis, and serves at the YMCA Davis site housed at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church. Rodney does not have a background in education, and this was actually his first time working with children in this type of program.

“Now, I can definitely see the need for literacy services,” Rodney said. His time as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate has taught him more about the power of networking and taking a collaborative approach to solving community issues. And for Rodney, the most powerful collaboration that he’s seen is with parents. “We’re establishing reading as an at-home thing too.”

Alexandria Wallace, a Music Education major at the Universty of Memphis and Summer Associate at Knowledge Quest, was initially nervous about starting work in an area of the city so different from where she’d grown up. She was suprised at how engaged the entire community, particularly the parents and children, was in her work.

Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with the Literacy Mid-South summer reading program has affected Alexandria’s career goals. She’s thinking about the impact that education can have on children, and is perhaps considering a change of major.

“Now that I see how much these kids need a fantastic education, I want to help.”

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission.