Syracuse Literacy Zones Help Guide Adult Learners to Success

     Published on 2/11/20   Tagged under:    District News    Dr King Elementary School    Dr Weeks Elementary School    Grant Middle School    PSLA @ Fowler   

This is a photo of an Adult Education teacher handing a pencil to one of her students.In the Syracuse City School District, success isn’t limited just to school-aged students. Thanks to the Syracuse Literacy Zones, adults are also offered the supports and resources to help them succeed – free of charge. This year alone, close to 300 area adults are taking advantage of Literacy Zone classes and services, and more than 4,500 students have completed classes since the program began!
Literacy Zone Welcome Centers are located within four school sites in different quadrants of the city: Grant Middle School (North Zone), STEAM at Dr. King Elementary (South Zone), Dr. Weeks Elementary (East Zone) and PSLA at Fowler (West Zone). No appointment is needed to stop by the welcome centers, and a case manager is on hand at these sites to provide assistance.
The Literacy Zones began in Syracuse in 2009, gradually expanding to now reach the community at 21 different sites. Their main focus: to remove the barriers adults may be facing to continue or complete their education.
Stop by a Literacy Zone Welcome Center, and a case manager will help address any issues you may be facing and work with you to come up with a plan for moving forward.
“Case managers work very closely with our Adult Education teachers and the students in our classes,” Literacy Zones Program Facilitator Pat Deacon explained. “They perform intake processes and pretesting to help determine the best fit for people. They are also a referral source for about every agency in Onondaga County, in terms of health, housing, finance, job readiness, social services, childcare, immigration issues and more. They have become experts in knowing who can best help our students resolve barriers to education!”
Case Manager Blossom Horton has worked at all four Welcome Center sites since she started in the North zone in 2009. She is now based in the East zone but is constantly on the move, visiting literacy zone sites, community events and activities to help gather information that she can share with the families she assists.
Ms. Horton notes how much the program has grown over the past decade, mentioning that a variety of classes are now offered across the city during the morning, afternoon, and evening. Classes range from English as a Second Language to High School Equivalency and more.

“Every year, there’s something new,” she said. “We’re always evolving. As case managers, we’re in charge of working with the students to help them navigate complex issues and try to help assist them in alleviating barriers. We also assist with helping them find post-secondary education if they want to continue on with their schooling or enroll in some kind of training program. It’s very rewarding. I enjoy seeing the students succeed. When they come in and they have a goal, and we’re able to assist them in achieving the goal, that’s the best thing! We’ve seen so many of our students become productive members of society.”
Christine Leonard is one such example. Ms. Leonard is a parent, whose seven children all attend or have attended SCSD schools. For about seven years, Ms. Leonard slowly worked her way through math, reading and writing courses in an effort to earn her High School Equivalency (HSE) Diploma by passing the TASC exam (formerly the GED).
“I was hoping to get my HSE because I have my heart set on being a Teaching Assistant,” Ms. Leonard explained. “The classes helped me a lot. I had never written an essay before I got here… but I learned about them and am now able to write one. I learned algebra and geometry. I’ve had good teachers. Earning my HSE will mean a lot – it’s a big step forward and will allow me to become a TA. Because of the classes, things are different for me. I can help my kids with their math now if they come home and they’re confused.”
She recently took her HSE exam – and has already been offered a Teaching Assistant position at Lincoln Middle School, contingent upon the results.

“I saw the things my son struggled with in school – he had trouble focusing,” Ms. Leonard said. “I’m looking forward to being able to help other people’s kids in school. For anyone thinking about signing up for a class, I would tell them: it’s worth it. It’s never too late. I got farther in life than I thought I could, and it’s because I was willing to do this and learn new things.”
To learn more about the Syracuse Literacy Zones and how they can assist you, visit