Greater Orange Area Literacy Services is helping others with reading, better education

Published 12:08 am Sunday, June 25, 2023

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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ― Frederick Douglass

One local non-profit is working hard to give that freedom to people in the area. Greater Orange Area Literacy Services, or GOALS, provides a variety of free services to enable those 16 and over to achieve their personal goals through improved literacy.

“We believe the ability to read is critical to personal freedom,” Executive Director Rhonda Powell said.

Rhonda Powell

GOALS is an affiliate of ProLiteracy America and, according to its site, more than 43 million adults in the United States cannot read, write or do basic math above a third-grade level.

So, what about locally?

According to The State of Literacy in America, 23 percent of adults in Texas and 30 percent of adults in the city of Orange function at Level 1 (the lowest level).

“Many students did not receive the individual help they needed at school,” Powell said. “Others left school to earn a living. Some have come to America to earn a living. These are just some of the ones who need our help.”

The U.S. has the world’s largest immigrant population and according to statistics from ProLiteracy America, among those immigrants, only half are proficient English speakers. In Texas, that’s approximately 2 million people.

“We offer English as a Second Language (ESL), for those whose first language is not English; Adult Basic Education (ABE) for adults wanting to learn to read and write; and General Equivalency Diploma (GED) for adults who never received a high-school diploma,” Powell said.

Bonnie Hopperton, Debra Mitchell and Wanda Clifton of Orange had a dream of eradicating illiteracy in the city and founded GOALS in July 1993.

“They not only loved the residents of Orange but recognized a need for increased literacy help in our area,” Powell said.

Almost 3 million adults of working age in Texas are without a high school credential; 121,000 of those are unemployed. 43 percent of adults with the lowest level of literacy live in poverty, compared to only 4 percent with the highest literacy skills.

“Sometimes, those of us who can read, take it for granted, but those who can’t struggle with reading the newspaper or a prescription bottle, or filling out an application,” Powell said.

Powell said one of the students who made an impression on her was a 93-year-old woman who enrolled in the reading program.

“Don’t ever think that you are too old!” Powell said.

Powell has been involved with GOALS since 2015, when it was all very new to her.

“Very quickly, I began to love our cause and the clients we serve,” she said. “It makes me feel really good to help someone learn.”

Students who complete the program also feel a sense of accomplishment.

“Thanks to GOALS, I was able to get my GED, and now I can join the Armed Forces,” Peyton G said.

Daniela B said, “I’m learning English not just for me, but for everyone in my family.”

GOALS relies on grants, including the United Way and Community Development Block grant, as well as fundraisers to keep the program running. Their biggest fundraiser is the annual adult spelling bee, which usually happens in April.

“Teams are made up of three people and they usually bring cheerleaders,” Powell said. “Spectators and participants are served a lunch and have a great time at the bee. Participants are usually businessmen, educators and college students, as well as church groups.”

GOALS also functions thanks to several tutors, who start working after a course from the ProLiteracy site.

“Anyone can tutor. If you can read, you can teach another to read,” Powell said.

Powell says students feel a sense of accomplishment when they meet their literacy goals.

“Some are able to go to college, some get a job and others are able to help their children with their homework.  Whatever the reason, GOALS is here for you,” she said.

If anyone needs literacy services, call 409-886-4311 or go by the office, located at 520 W. Decatur Avenue in Orange.


GOALS offers individual and small class setting in four programs:

Adult Basic Education: for adults reading below sixth grade level.

English as a Second Language and Citizenship: for adults whose first language was not English.

Family Literacy: for parents who want to learn what and how to read to their children.

GED, General Equivalency Diploma: for adults reading at the eighth-grade level who have not received a high school diploma.

“Being able to speak English is not a luxury but is a necessity for all of us,” Sandra C said.

According to ProLiteracy America, a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.

— Written by Chrissie Mouton