News & Events

Essay Contest Winner - Randy!

Learning a second language can be easy for some people and hard for others. This is my story how I learned English. But before you read it, I would like you to know more about me.

My name is Randy and I am 27 years old. I grew up in a village around the city of Coatepeque, Guatemala. Yes, as you can see Guatemala is my born country. I am the fourth of 7 siblings, 3 brothers, and 4 sisters. I was fortunate of having an education in Guatemala. My elementary and middle school was completed in the same village where I used to live. The school was located two miles and a half away from my house and I used to get there by walking.  The years of school in Guatemala are divided in: 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle school, and 3 years of high school. In my case I got a high school diploma with orientation in Physical Education in a school in Coatepeque city. It was located 40 minutes away from my home and I had to take the public bus to get there. I graduated from high school in 2011. The lack of opportunities in Guatemala made me move on to United States on Friday October 10th of 2014.

To get to the United States took me exactly 24 days. It was a trip full of obstacles and risks since I didn’t have the resources for making it easier. I met people during it that had the same goal as me, to get to the United States and find a job to help their relatives. After passing through Mexico, the first state that I knew was Texas. I can’t forget my impression when I saw well maintained roads, with signs everywhere, but what caught more my attention was the words in the signs. Even though I didn’t understand them, I was sure that they were English words. As if that wasn’t enough, when I saw those high buildings in the heart of Houston city ,it made me realize that I was in the country where I wanted to be, The United States. It was bitter and sweet at the same time because I completed one of my goals, but I was far from home. After we left behind the State of Texas we drove through the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, until I got my destiny, the city of Bradenton Florida where my sister was waiting for me.  Here is where my new life and challenge begins. To find a job was the next step and after some days looking for one, I found one as a landscaper. After 3 days of work I got laid off. 

My sister’s friend worked as a painter and the company where he worked was hiring employees. I was hired in March 25th of 2015, and after 5 years I remain working in the same company.  My sister was the same person that helped to get enrolled in English classes.  She and I are current students in Manatee Literacy Council. I remember the first day of class I was very happy and excited. English was the language that caught my attention since I was in Middle School in Guatemala and one of my goals. They taught us basic English and I had very good grades since my capacity to memorize word was so good. The tests were only writing, so it made it even easier for me. 

I started learning the basic of English again, but the difference now that I could practice it everywhere, since the United States has diversity of languages, but with English as dominant it was going to be it easier to learn it.  After 5 Years of having an English class every day, I can say that I speak a second language. I am now able to communicate with people that don’t speak my native language. The English changed my day living in The United states. I can help my sister with her homework and attend her meetings at school with confidence that I am going to understand most of the talking, and if I don’t understand something, I can ask a question. Every raise that I get at work is not related only for my hard work. When I started working in the company, I didn’t speak any English.  But since I started speaking English, and it combined with my qualities as worker, has given me the position of the leader of the crew. Most of my co-workers are Spanish speakers, and sometimes I have been the translator in some meetings. I had an accident at work and the diagnosis was a non-displayable fracture in my wrist. I had to get some appointments and attending them by myself was going to be a chance to test my English. Medical terms are not well-known for me, and some clinics didn’t have any Spanish speaker. If there was a term that I didn’t know, the doctor patiently explained them to me. 

This is how learning English is one of the best things that have happened to me. I didn’t learn it by myself because there are more people behind my learning. Thanks to Manatee Literacy Council, the volunteers, and especially my teacher, for have given a voice in this country to people like me. Their hard work is reflected in every step that we take, in every decision that we make, and in our future to come. It is the first time that I write about how important learning English is, even though I’m still learning it. It is never late to learn a second language and I always encourage my co-workers and people around me to try it. This is not easy but never impossible to achieve. We have just to keep trying, and never giving up to a dream as frustrating that it be.

The dream dies when the dreamer stops dreaming.

Essay Contest Winner - Mustafa!

Our lives changed after we got to know the MLC. There we met people whose hearts are pure gold. These people were dedicated to helping others. That's why they deserve the greatest thanks.  It is really hard to express one's emotions in another language. I know that there will be many inaccuracies and shortcomings in this article. But again I know that some feelings cannot be expressed even in one's native language.  I believe the MLC changes people's lives. As in a Loren Eiseley story, the MLC makes a difference in the lives of the people it touches.…“One morning, the old man was walking along the beach after a big storm and found the vast beach littered with starfish. In the distance, he noticed a small boy bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. The old man came closer and asked “What are you doing?” The young boy replied “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water. The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Thanks to the MLC for making a difference in the lives of grounded people after a storm. These people all have different stories. However, the common feature of all of them is their efforts to build a good future for themselves and their families. For this, they aim to adapt to the society they live in in the best way. They believe that in this way they will contribute to the society they live in.

Some of the most important communication tools for people are talking, writing, and reading. If I want to communicate with people in the United States, I should improve these skills. I am in the United States and English is the spoken language. Therefore, learning English will allow me to communicate with people and will help to make new friends. Also, English is the language used in business, art, science, and technology. Learning English will increase my chances to get a better job. I can reach my dreams and new opportunities with learning English. So, it is very important and necessary. Being able to talk, read, and write frees people. Frederick Douglas says, “Once you learn to read you will be forever free”.  I also think that, learning English will make a significant difference in my life. Thanks to the MLC for helping people freedom. “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better” (Albert Camus). Thanks to the MLC for giving a chance to be better to people.

The leaf is the most important organ of most plants and it allows the plant to breathe and survive. The leaf is of different color and shape. However, the common feature of all of them is to ensure the survival of the plant. The tree that has many leafs also has more fruit. Thanks to those who support the MLC tree with LEAF.

The ancient Greeks wore crowns on all kinds of special days. This crown was usually made of the leaf. At the great international games, the victors only received a crown of the leaf. The crown functioned as a symbol of victory. The leaf crowns the MLC and LEAF. Thanks to the Movement Largehearted Community. You have always been very helpful. Thank you for being a supporter of the sea stars. The most beautiful crowns are for you.

   Essay Winner, Mercedes!

My name is Mercedes and I know of the nonprofit organization Manatee Literacy Council an entity in charge of helping many people with English classes for several years has provided support and help in this matter given the importance of knowledge of a second language for me and for many people who like me are interested learning. Now it is worth highlighting the work, not only of the Manatee Literacy Council organization but of al the people who make it possible for each of us to have a personalized tutor in charge of our performance and good language development.

My experience in this organization began about eleven months ago, taking my classes at the office located in Bradenton, Florida on Monday at ten a.m. with the teacher Chris, while they found us a volunteer tutor who was going to help us with the language. Since December 10, 2019, I met Karen, my English tutor, who is a wonderful person, dedicated, and patient in her teaching work with me and from whom I have learned a lot today.  The reading, writing, and communication classes in English have been part of my learning.  During with COVID-19, we have not been able to meet but this has not been a negative factor since Karen has continued my classes virtually so that I can continue with my learning.  It is time to give thanks for the time the support the dedication and the help that you have given me.  And I hope to continue learning much more every day.

*certain personal information omitted.

October 5, 2020
Congratulations to our National Literacy Month Essay Winners!
We have selected four winners for the Learner Essay contest!  We'll post some of their personal stories here for all to enjoy.  Thanks to all who participated and a special thanks to our judge, Gail Ghai.  An accomplished poet and teacher, her works have appeared in Descant, JAMA, Poet Works, Women's Review of Books, and the Yearbook of American Poetry Awards.  We appreciate her dedication to adult literacy!

August 25, 2020

Executive Director, Michelle McLean, received the Proclamation declaring September the National Literacy Month in Manatee County. Roger Boos, Emeritus Member, and Mayu Fielding, Board President were also in attendance.  


Welcome to Manatee Literacy Council!!
Michelle Desveaux McLean, Executive Director 
We did it!  Saturday, March 7 at LECOM PARK at the Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Game.   We had a very busy table at this game.  

Manatee Literacy Council at Pittsburgh Pirates Pep Rally 2020 Saturday, February 15 Downtown Bradenton was a fun filled evening. We had many visitors at our table who spun the wheel and won cool prizes. Most importantly they learned about MLC and its mission.  Hope you can join us next time.  

Volunteer Recognition Day
On November 17, we recognized the Manatee Literacy Council Volunteer Tutors. We celebrated with friends, learners, Board members, and even a few Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball players. The event was refreshing and fun. Thank you, Volunteers, for your commitment, support, and knowledge. See all the event photos here.


Mission Monday at 3 Keys Brewery & Eatery
3 Keys Brewing & Eatery hosted Manatee Literacy Council for their Mission Monday on July 30, 2018. We celebrated winning Best Business Parnership during the 2018 Giving Challenge. Many thanks to 3 Keys Brewing for all they do to support and give back to our community.

Manatee Literacy on 96.5 WSLR Radio
Manatee Literacy Council volunteer Pat Rounds and Board Member Mayu Fielding were featured on "Peace & Justice Report," a program on 96.5 WSLR, Sarasota Community Radio. Pat and Mayu talked about our organization and the need for teaching literacy in our community. Listen to the full interview with host Tom Walker by following this link and playing the Wednesday, July 25, show. The MLC interview begins around 36:00.
The "Peace & Justice Report" covers local, state, national, and international social justice issues, and brings a wide variety of guests whose views are underrepresented in the mainstream media. Hosts Bob Connors and Tom Walker speak with many peace activists who are devoting their lives to creating a world free from war, violence and environmental destruction.

Grant Funds for Technology Update
Board President Roger Boos, Executive Director Marilyn Cox, and MCF Board Member Stewart Moon 
Manatee Literacy Council recently received a $6,000 grant from the Evans Family Charitable Fund of the
Manatee Community Foundation
. These funds will be used to buy a new printer, a new desktop computer, several laptops, update our data collection software, and train more volunteers in our learner assessment system. We are most grateful for this contribution, which will bring our technology up-to-date and help us better serve our clients. Thank you for the funds needed to improve literacy in Manatee County.

2018 Giving Challenge

Thank you to everyone who donated to Manatee Literacy Council during the 2018 Giving Challenge. You raised $14,145 during the 24-hour event! Included in the total are two $2,000 prizes: Best Business Partnership with 3 Keys Brewing & Eatery and Best Giving Challenge Turnaround. Also included are two $500 prizes: one for "Best 2016 Giving Challenge Story" and another from Manatee Community Foundation for a story written by one of our volunteers. We had a great turnout at our Open House and at our "Toast to Literacy" mixer at  The Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation. Learn More

Supplies Collected by Local High School Students
Thank you to Southeast High School students Andrea and Anthony for the supplies they collected for Manatee Literacy Council. These will be put to good use in our classes and one-on-one sessions. Click here for more Ways to Give.

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Build Day

We are continuing to partner with Manatee County Habitat for Humanity for the 2018 Giving Challenge. Both of our organizations want to “walk in each other’s shoes” in order to more deeply understand the people we serve, their needs, and each other’s programs. As part of this partnership, Manatee County Habitat invited us to participate in a Build day at The Interfaith Build, 604 11th Avenue East, in Bradenton, on April 17. Several Manatee Literacy Council volunteers pitched in, and we have invited their volunteers to attend a conversation class.

#GivingTuesday & 2017 Highlights
Thank you to everyone who joined the #GivingTuesday movement and helped kick off the holiday season. Manatee Literacy Council raised more than $500 through your generosity.

2017 was a year of great changes for Manatee Literacy Council. Here's a recap of our top 10:
  1. Volunteers gave 2,570 hours to Manatee Literacy Council. Using the IRS volunteer hourly rate, that is a $62,040 in-kind donation!
  2. Over 24 new tutors were added thanks to Marilyn's in-house workshops and online tutor training courses. Every new tutor helps shrink our learner wait list.
  3. Marilyn Cox came out of retirement to serve as Interim Executive Director. She brings a wealth of experience and boundless optimism.
  4. We received $1,000 grants from five private foundations and local businesses.
  5. A $6,360 grant from the Eugene F. and Elizabeth Hull Charitable Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation allowed us to update our textbook library.
  6. We added a weekly Conversation Class to engage those learners waiting to be placed with a tutor.
  7. We launched our newly redesigned website.
  8. We unveiled a new logo that showcases the themes of "empowerment" and "independence" from our mission.
  9. We changed our name from Manatee Reads! to Manatee Literacy Council to more clearly represent what we do.
  10. We moved to our beautiful new offices in the Goodwill Manasota building on Cortez Road West. 
We look forward to a spectacular 2018. Thank you to everyone who supported Manatee Literacy Council!

Manatee Literacy Council Open House

Executive Director Marilyn Cox, Board President Roger Boos, and a Goodwill Manasota Representative cut the ceremonial ribbon

On October 10, 2017, Manatee Literacy Council hosted a celebration of literacy and literature and welcomed guests to our beautiful new office space inside the Goodwill Manasota complex on Cortez and 34th Street West. Thank you to all who attended, especially guest authors Stephen Cork, Sandy Prindle, and Jo Ann V. Glim.

New Office & New Name

We've moved our office, we've changed our name.
But our commitment to literacy remains the same.

This was a summer of change from Manatee Literacy Council. The first change is the relocation of our office from our home of many years in the United Way of Manatee County Building on 14th Street West. The move was spurred by the United Way of Manatee County's recent merger with United Way Suncoast. The old building is for sale and will likely be razed as United Way moves operations to Lakewood Ranch. 

Manatee Literacy Council was fortunate to find a great space in the Goodwill Manasota Building at 3501 Cortez Road West, Suite 6, Bradenton, FL 34210. Previously the Healthcare America building, Goodwill Manasota leases office suites on the west side of their shopping and donations center near DaVita Dialysis. The new office is 525 square feet and has a main reception area, director's office, and spaces for tutoring. Also included is a shared restroom and use of the adjacent community room. Manatee Literacy Council officially took residence in the new space in late June.

The second major change this summer was the Board of Directors' decision to cease use of the DBA name "Manatee Reads!" in favor of Manatee Literacy Council. While our official name still remains the Literacy Council of Manatee County, our new DBA is Manatee Literacy Council. The Board chose Manatee Reads! five years ago to dispel the misconception that our organization was government funded. The Board is confident that the new name, Manatee Literacy Council, conveys clearly what our organization does and where it serves. Along with the new name is a new logo that visually represents Manatee Literacy Council's mission to "empower Manatee County residents to independence through literacy."

We invite you to visit our new office at our September 12 open house, or to stop by during office hours, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And if you have not met our new Executive Director, Marilyn Cox, please welcome her with a call 941-746-8197 or email. Marilyn began in May, bringing a wealth of experience in nonprofit literacy work. She has already made great strides for Manatee Literacy Council. 

Grants Provide Updated Textbooks & Learner Materials

Executive Director Marilyn Cox with the textbooks purchased with funds from two grants

Manatee Literacy Council's bookshelves are well stocked with new textbooks and learner materials thanks to two recent grants.

The first was a $6,360 grant from the Eugene F. and Elizabeth Hull Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation. This grant provided the funds to update several of our learning series to help our adult learners achieve their individual goals. The “Laubach Way to Reading” series for English-as-a-Second-Language learners and the “Challenger Adult Reading” series for Adult Basic English learners were both updated with new teacher and learner editions. We added the “That’s Life” series to enhance our programs.

The second was a $1,795.30 grant from ProLiteracy National Book Fund. With this grant, Manatee Literacy Council upgraded our Oxford Picture Dictionaries and purchased a one-year subscription to the weekly learner newspaper "News for You."

Also included in these grants is a start-up fund for a new conversation class for our ESL learners. These classes will be called “Start Now” conversation classes because they will let adult learners start working on their skills in a group environment until they are matched with an individual tutor.

These grants coincided with Manatee Literacy Council's recent move, allowing us to retire several outdated textbook editions in favor of new materials. Our learners will benefit from the new editions that more accurately match their day-to-day lives and challenges. 

Generous Support for Manatee Literacy Council

Board President Roger Boos, Tutor and TriNet Employee Laura Helgren, and Executive Director Marilyn Cox with the donated signage

Manatee Literacy Council was grateful to receive $1,000 from the Morrish Charitable Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation for general operating use, $1,000 from Publix Super Markets Charities to defray moving costs, and a $1,000 Community Grant from the Walmart Foundation and Bradenton Walmart Supercenter (Store #1004) on Cortez Road West.

TriNet employees graciously donated a computer and a printer for the Manatee Literacy Council office. They also collected $600, which was used to purchase signage for the new office, and the remainder will help cover the costs of the September 12 celebration. Laura Helgren, Senior Coordinator for the TriNet Solutions Center and new Manatee Literacy Council tutor, spearheaded the collection.ever


Manatee Literacy Council
3501 Cortez Road West, Suite 6, Bradenton, FL 34210