Crucial Literature: Spelling Bee Brings Cold Sweats for a Great Cause

Image11All around Kansas City, they’re breaking out in cold sweats. They’re closeted in conference rooms, lunch rooms, and clustered around desks. They’re eating, sleeping, and breathing their study guides. They’re adults preparing for a spelling bee.

Hosted by Literacy Kansas City, the 19th annual Corporate Spelling Bee will be held on Thursday, April 25 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) Pierson Hall. “The event is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and we are still accepting teams and sponsors,” says Carrie Coogan, Literacy Kansas City’s executive director. “We ask metro-wide corporations to sponsor and recruit employees to create a team. The team then competes against other companies in a real life spelling bee.”

According to Literacy Kansas City, about 225,000 adults in the Kansas City area function at the lowest literacy level. Their mission is to erase that figure. Since 1985, Literacy Kansas City and its volunteers have taught thousands to read. They are constantly recruiting volunteers and students for their programs. According to Coogan, one of the best ways to recruit volunteers is by word of mouth from other volunteers. “We also regularly attend resource, job and event fairs. We speak at churches, community groups, rotary clubs, businesses, organizations and we hold monthly ’Literacy Kansas City is Changing Lives’ events at our offices and Learning Center to show how our program works and you get to hear from a student and tutor about how our services and the help they receive is changing their life for the better.”

Coogan says Literacy Kansas City’s programs and services are presented at resource fairs and by reaching out to organizations and agencies such as Operation Breakthrough and Amethyst Place. “We also have a program (GEARS) we created to partner with Penn Valley Community College to help students entering college who need reading help and tutoring.

“GEARS is taught by a Literacy Kansas City instructor at Penn Valley to students who read below a fifth-grade level. We also provide services, support, and tutoring for people who are on probation and parole. When a person is on probation and parole they are required to get a job and get their general education development (GED). Many students need reading help before they can begin to take general education development GED prep courses,” Coogan says.

Food, drinks, and a live auction are also part of the spelling bee. “This year for the first time, thanks to a board member sponsorship, we have a team of volunteer tutors competing in the spelling bee,” Coogan says. To get involved with the spelling bee, volunteer, or inquire about services, you can reach Literacy Kansas City at 816-333-9332.


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