Featured in The Women Leaders
Sue Grant built an impactful career in cause marketing within the nonprofit industry. At the height of her career, equipped with 25 years of invaluable experience, she followed her heart’s calling. She founded The Literacy Project to serve struggling, at-risk children in unfortunate circumstances. After a contract with The Regents of The University of California, where she helped create an afterschool reading program to address growing illiteracy rates, an idea blossomed, and Sue realized the program could be used to offer free reading lessons to children, especially among low-income families in impoverished areas. Her lifelong passion culminated with the founding of TLP by bringing her nonprofit experience, leadership skills, and relentless drive to the forefront of literacy issues. She believes every child has a right to learn to read within their unique capabilities. She believes our most vulnerable children need hope, support, and to be equipped with the basic foundational reading skills to pave the way for a successful future.
Mentoring the Right Way
Her greatest joy is to share her world and love for people with ambitious female minds. They say mentoring truly is a gift to the mentor, and Sue wholeheartedly agrees. “Throughout my career, I have been blessed with over 50 interns that I have had the honor of mentoring. I fostered connections early on with Chapman University, Cal State Fullerton and UCI internship departments,” she says. “Each year about 80% of the applications I receive are from females. With each intern, I focus on helping advance both their personal and academic development while opening doors for them that they never thought would open.” To introduce a young student to the Chairman of Angels Baseball, a billionaire, or any top professional in the field, is a gratifying pleasure for Sue. “Each person I work with becomes like family – I have been to weddings, seen children born, and many have even become close friends. As one of nine children growing up, I always love to be surrounded by a loving and nurturing environment, and I do my part to create that for others. Needless to say my mentoring is far from sitting in Starbucks chatting!”
Sue believes part of empowering people is by providing them with a foundation. For example, she starts every intern or employee off with the Strength Finders test so that together they understand the landscape of their skill set. “I also share my results, so they understand what strengths drive my character as well. This allows us collaboratively to foster the highest-level working environment. I love to ask, “What do you love to do, and what do you dislike?” My history is rich with lessons, and one is to encourage my team to perform 75% of the time in the department they love, while coaching them through their work spent in the department they dislike 25% of the time,” she elucidates. “The team environment is enriched when their strengths and my strengths work together. It’s amazing to see them grow when you help them “like” something they don’t have confidence in.”
Helping Others Evolve
Often when people think of revolutionary, they think of things that are “new.” When it comes to learning, TLP is making exceptional progress in helping at-risk readers by teaching basic reading skills at the most critical “literacy gap” benchmark between second and third grade. At the same time, there are many great advancements when it comes to learning, many of those champion shortcuts that don’t serve struggling readers well or provide a proper foundation for them to build upon. TLP is revolutionary because while the world evolves, TLP helps others evolve by ensuring they are equipped with the literacy tools they need so that life does not evolve without them.
“We are always evolving to serve our children best. At the moment, we are focused on refining our teaching procedures, hiring high caliber teachers by increasing wages, and developing our program to even greater excellence so that we can take on four more states next year!” Sue adds, “our ultimate goal is to be a national charity by 2025. We have our sights set on bringing our program into the 10 most illiterate cities in the US.” TLP has already been serving the 6th most illiterate, the city of Anaheim, California, since 2012. Another important goal that TLP has is to bring their reading program to the student residents within the affordable housing communities nationwide.
Towards the Future
For the days to come, The Literacy Project will continue to service Southern California, Utah, and Arizona school districts and plans to open schools in New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington in the fall of 2022. “Our reading program, free of charge to both the students and the school, offers a 30-hour program conducted five days per week and four cycles during each school year. We graduate 72 new readers every year at every school we serve.” During their off month in the summer, they conduct more training, organize their annual fundraisers, and hire for the next school year, which starts in the fall. They have served over 10,500 students with this program and are very inspired to see that number grow, especially when learning retention is at an all-time devastating low.
Sue’s goal for the Literacy Project is to see it rise in service and scale to become a national charity, addressing escalating illiteracy statistics nationwide. The organization hopes to serve the most at-risk cities and school districts in each state. In tackling the “10 Most Illiterate Cities in the US,” TLP will serve at least one school in each area for starters. They hope to attract major corporations who want to join their national campaign and support America’s under-resourced youth. “In 2019-20, Chapman University collaborated with us to produce the strategic plan, “United in Literacy,” for this venture. Execution is scheduled for January 2023, as long as schools reopen in fall 2022.” Sue Grant believes there are many ways to save the life of a child, giving the gift of literacy is one of them.