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The Racine Literacy Council has announced its new Executive Director will be Laura Sumner Coon, who will start serving Racine in her new position on Aug. 15. Sumner Coon will take over the role from the late Stephen Mussenden, who passed away unexpectedly in February of 2022.

The Racine Literary Council, 734 Lake Ave., provides adult literacy programs to those in need within Racine County. Its mission includes the desire to raise community awareness of the importance and impact of literacy.

In addition to the hardships the organization faced by losing its director, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the organization as well. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit organization saw devastating effects on the populations they serve. Many of those who benefit from their mission happen to be those who were essential workers through the pandemic. In addition, these individuals also are limited to internet access and technology.

Expanding opportunities

“The work of the Racine Literacy Council is very much about expanding opportunities, for the widest group of people possible through education,” Sumner Coon said. She described literacy as having learned “enough to speak, write and read in a language that (people) have difficulty with, in a new language, and in (their) existing language.”

In a multitude of ways, the new Executive Director shares that the Racine Literacy Council strives to help, “whether that means that you have the ability to understand digital literacy, digital items, and processes and use all the devices that have become so commonplace. You have literacy enough to be engaged civically. (This means) you understand your rights, your ability to exercise the right to vote, and understand the governmental processes that affect all of our lives. All of those kinds of literacies are so important to have a full and fulfilling life in our society,” according to Sumner Coon.

Her Background

While new to this nonprofit, Sumner Coon is not new to the field. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Education Policy and Leadership at Marquette University. In addition, for 7 years, she has been working as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Parkside in the Teacher Preparation Program.

The educator also holds a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Studies from St. Francis Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication-Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

“My whole professional career has pretty much centered on equity issues and education,” said Sumner Coon. “The work of the Racine Literacy Council is very much about expanding opportunities.”

This will be the second time that Sumner Coon holds the title of Executive Director. She was the founding director of the former SOAR of Racine, an organization that provided educational opportunities for children and their families. In 2017, the board of the organization decided that the nonprofit had fulfilled its mission. Sumner Coon comes to the Racine Literacy Council with experience from being a founder of Spirit Music Makers of Racine, Inc. and serving on various nonprofit boards in Racine County.

Sumner Coon excited for new beginnings

The new Executive Director is eager to continue adding to the positive impact that the Racine Literacy Council has on Racine.

“We have such a diverse population,” she said. “There are many people who wish that they were fluent in another language, Spanish, for instance, so that they could better communicate with their employees, with their neighbors and that’s something that we will look to enhance as well.”

A full list of resources and ways they give back can be found online. The organization that is volunteer-based functions by tutors teaming up with students to help expand their literacy. Not only is the organization eager to help more individuals under its new leadership, but also is calling on individuals to bring their assets to the Racine Literacy Council’s table as well.

“There are so many good people who devote their time and attention to helping their neighbors. And that’s really what the literacy council depends on.”

If you are interested in being a volunteer, attend an upcoming information session at Racine Literacy’s office. Sessions run from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Aug. 17, and from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.

“We’re really blessed with people in our community who are willing to give up their time and attention to make everyone else’s life more abundant,” said Sumner Coon.

For more information, interested people may contact Jessica Breiwick at 262-632-9495.

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