Lights of Literacy recognizes nine ‘literacy luminaries’

Awards and proclamations were presented at the annual Light of Literacy Awards last week, where nine recipients were honored for being literacy luminaries.

Hosted by Friends of Wicomico Public Libraries, the awards “recognize the power of everyday individuals doing extraordinary work in promoting the power of literacy throughout the community.”

“The Light of Literacy Awards bring together leaders from around the area to recognize those who are luminaries in our community, lighting the way for others by their example,” according to members of the Friends organization, who described literacy as encompassing a “realm of skills necessary for life in today’s world.”

Literacy, they said, is the “ability to take in information and use it to improve a life” and includes “not only tutoring someone to improve their ability to read but also consists of instructing someone on how to use a computer, teaching them to manage their finances, assisting them in understanding their doctor’s orders, or working with them in finding a career.”

Categories and winners were:

Organization Luminary – Two organizations won in a tie, University of Maryland Extension and MAC Inc.

The Extension is known for offering services and information for the betterment of the community.

MAC, an acronym for Maintaining Active Citizens, provides programs for those 55 and older, for the preservation of dignity and maintenance of health and independence.

Higher Education Luminary –Dr. Anjali Pandey, professor of TESOL and Applied Linguistics at Salisbury University.

Pandey, who has taught at several institutions, is project director and developer of SU’s TARGET Program, to train and retrain teachers to work with students for whom English is a foreign language.

Student Luminary – Eleanor Brown, who balances her passion for learning with service to others and whose activities and accomplishments include Girl Scouts Gold Award, Girl Scout Congressional Aide on Capitol Hill, book discussion leader at ECI, advocate for incarceration reform and Habitat for Humanity.

Adult Luminary– Susan Canfora, news reporter for the Salisbury Independent newspaper.

Active in the newspaper business 39 years, Canfora is also an adjunct professor, teaching writing and related courses at both Salisbury University and Wor-Wic Community College, and offering tutoring and editing services in the community.

Educator Luminary – Sisters Amber and Kelly Dorman are language arts teachers at Mardela Middle School, where they conduct a weekly after-school book club. They believe through literature for young adults, students realize they are not alone in experiencing struggles, frustrations and joys common to adolescence.

STEM Literacy Luminary – M4 Reactor, under the director of Kevin Justice.

M4 Reactor was created in 2016 to provide maker space for creative ideas that use skills such as robotics, 3D printing, laser cutting and coding.

Liz Bellavance Legacy Award – Mary Gladys Jones, who has dedicated her life to the education and well-being of children.

After teaching 42 years in Worcester and Wicomico counties, Jones, now 99, transitioned the former Morris Street Colored Elementary School into Fruitland Community Center and has volunteered thousands of hours to develop the tutorial program.

The Health Literacy Initiative update was presented by Tracy Ritter and Kathryn Fiddler.

They discussed the coalition formed among Peninsula Regional Medical Center, The United Way and Salisbury University, resulting in funding to research health literacy programs.

H. Scott Duncan was emcee. Erica Murphy was narrator and Doug Martin, senior engineer for Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, was guest speaker.

A graduate of Wicomico High School and SU, Martin, a senior engineer, joked that when he was a boy, those interested in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – were called nerds, “but it’s kind of cool to be a nerd nowadays.”

“I needed that early spark,” he said, thanking his parents  for helping him with experiments and buying him so many Legos that, he joked, even today they could step on lava and not feel it, after having the tiny, scattered building blocks injure their bare feet so many times.

“I’d like to encourage each one of you to be that spark in somebody’s life today,” he said.

Among dignitaries attending the event, at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, were state Sens. Mary Beth Carozza and Addie Eckardt, Delegate Carl Anderton, Wicomico County Council President John Cannon, Salisbury City Council President Jack Heath and SU President Dr. Charles Wight.

Ashley Teagle, Executive Director of the local libraries, told the audience the public library, started locally in 1925, is the best return on an investment.

“At the heart of the library is you,” she said, inviting guests to take complimentary tote bags printed with the logo for the libraries’ upcoming milestone anniversary.

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