Peach to be certified today as literate community

FORT VALLEY – It’s an exciting day for Mildred Lindsey, executive director of the Literacy Education for Adults in Peach County.

Lindsey and LEAP board members will head to Atlanta today for a meeting of the State Board of Technical College System of Georgia. During the meeting, the board is expected to read a resolution recognizing Peach County as a certified literate community.

“It feels very gratifying not only for me, but for the people who started this journey 10 years ago,” Lindsey said of the final step of the certification process.

In 1998, LEAP was formed with the goal of reaching a majority of the people in Peach County without a high school diploma within a 10-year period. At the time, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated the number was 4,792, meaning the program had to reach 2,397 students.

Over the past decade, the program managed to reach more than 2,700 students.

In February, the county received a visit from the Certified Literate Community Program professional association team, which is responsible for final certification examination. The team recommended the county receive approval for certification.

Billie Izard, state director for the CLCP program, has been with the LEAP program since the beginning and watched it grow into the success it is today.

“They’ve done such a great job of keeping the program together,” Izard said.

Izard has witnessed the making of 25 certified literate communities and said the certification always comes with benefits. She said the communities often see a boost in economic development and sustainment.

Furthermore, she said it helps families place a value on education that passes down through generations.

“The benefits are endless,” Izard said.

Peach County Commissioner Michael Dinkins is anticipating the economic development benefits. Dinkins noted that with the increase in literacy comes the attraction of businesses.

“It’s a win for the county and the community as a whole,” Dinkins said.

Lindsey said today’s celebration is not the end. She said next week she and the board members will meet to set their goals for the next go-round.

“We don’t want to stand still,” Lindsey said. “We don’t want to become a certified literate community and that’s it.”

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.