Pro­ject Read Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Shauna Brown cel­e­brates 15 years of chang­ing lives through lit­er­acy

Serve Daily - - EMPOWERING LIBERTY - By Megan Speer

On March 1, Utah County’s adult lit­er­acy pro­gram Pro­ject Read cel­e­brated Shauna Brown’s 15th an­niver­sary as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. Pro­ject Read of­fers one-on-one tu­tor­ing and changes lives through lit­er­acy by em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als, strength­en­ing fam­i­lies and build­ing com­mu­nity. Through Brown’s lead­er­ship dur­ing the past 15 years, Pro­ject Read has ex­pe­ri­enced much growth and suc­cess in its ef­forts to erad­i­cate adult il­lit­er­acy in Utah County.

Brown’s ca­reer at Pro­ject Read be­gan in 2001 shortly af­ter she grad­u­ated from Brigham Young Univer­sity with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in pub­lic re­la­tions. Though she started out as a vol­un­teer tu­tor, within one year she was in­vited to ap­ply for the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor po­si­tion. As she and her hus­band al­ready had plans to move to Tai­wan, Brown de­clined. But when their plans changed, she knew Pro­ject Read was where she needed to be, and so she ap­plied.

“That job in­ter­view was the most in­tim­i­dat­ing job in­ter­view I’ve ever had,” Brown said of fac­ing the Provo Li­brary Board of Di­rec­tors. It had been months since the ini­tial in­vi­ta­tion to ap­ply, but the board kept the ap­pli­ca­tion open hop­ing to find just the right can­di­date. Shauna Brown was their woman.

Many warned Brown that the first year of non­profit work would be the most dif­fi­cult, and this proved to be true. In her first month alone, Pro­ject Read moved to a new lo­ca­tion, Brown and her hus­band moved to a new home, and Pro­ject Read was sued by a stu­dent who claimed a vol­un­teer tu­tor had stolen from her. The item was found and the charges dropped, but Brown claims it was one of the most im­por­tant lead­er­ship lessons she ever learned. “The cul­ture of Pro­ject Read re­flects my own char­ac­ter, so be­ing open and trans­par­ent is cru­cial,” she said. “You have to have good poli­cies and ac­count for the un­ex­pected.”

Un­daunted by her first year, Brown has con­tin­ued work­ing tire­lessly to end adult il­lit­er­acy in Utah County. Through her ef­forts, Pro­ject Read has grown in size and im­pact. In the past five years alone, Pro­ject Read has served 498 stu­dents and af­fected more than 1,000 fam­ily mem­bers with 288 stu­dents hav­ing en­tered, im­proved or re­tained em­ploy­ment.

For the next 15 years, Brown hopes to ex­pand the ca­pac­ity of Pro­ject Read to sup­port more adult learn­ers. Brown wants to be­come even more proac­tive and in­volved in the com­mu­nity, reach­ing more of the lo­cal busi­nesses, as well as par­tic­i­pat­ing in na­tional con­fer­ences and help­ing to spread the word about Pro­ject Read. “We live in an ed­u­cated com­mu­nity and peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that adult il­lit­er­acy is a prob­lem. I want Pro­ject Read to be­come a house­hold name where ev­ery­one knows to go for lit­er­acy help,” she said.

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