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2021 Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium – Online Event

October 29, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium 2021

Thank you so much for coming! This event is now over.

Check the Literacy Texas YouTube channel for recordings from this session, and from many others.


We’ve all had to pivot, make do, and be flexible – and more – during this last couple of pandemic years. What might go back to how it was? What’s shifted permanently? What new opportunities has the pandemic given us and what silver linings can we find on the cloud?

Join us online on Friday, October 29, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm (Central time) as we look at program structure and fundraising through the lens of “The Next Normal”.


9:00 am – 9:15 am – Welcome
Steve Banta, Executive Director, Literacy Texas

9:15 am – 10:15 am – Session One: The Next Normal – Powering Through the Pandemic with Adaptable Fundraising
Panelists – Jonita Fair-Payton and Tara M. Thompson, The Funding Strategists, and Ernest Lewis III, President and CEO, Adult Education Center
Moderator – Jackie Aguilera, Project Manager, City of Houston Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy

10:15 am – 10:45 am – Session Two: Best Practices in Distance Education
Presenter – Claire Gilliam, AEL Instructor (Digital Literacy), TX Region 5 Adult Education Program

10:45 am – 11:00 am – Break & Door Prizes

11:00 am – 12:00 pm – Session Three: The Next Normal – Strategies in Building Sustainable Programs During and After a Pandemic
Panelists –  Angela M. Johnson, Director of Learning & Workforce Development, BakerRipley; Martin Loa, Past President of TALAE (Texas Association for Literacy in Adult Education); and Wes Young, Executive Director of Tarrant Literacy Coalition
Moderator – Jackie Aguilera, Project Manager, City of Houston Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy

Following the session, continue the conversation in the Texas Literacy Network Facebook group.


The Funding Strategists

The Funding Strategists (TFS) are proven industry experts who are highly sought after for their innovative business strategies and funding success ratings. They retain clients nationally with geographical hubs in Texas, California, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Their current client base includes various disciplines: non-profits, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, local governments, for profits, etc. TFS has secured over $100 million dollars in funding dollars for organizations.

TFS is a firm built on strong foundational principles. Their core values of Faith, Transparency, Integrity, Innovation, and Strategic Focus govern all business interactions and further solidify their esteemed reputation in the professional services industry. The Principal Partners of The Funding Strategists are Jonita Fair-Payton and Tara M. Thompson. The firm also has a Firm Associate and a team of researchers.

Ernest Lewis III

Nonprofit veteran Ernest Lewis III has a diverse background in the areas of management, fund development, media, literacy, arts administration, and community development. The New Orleans native has called Houston home for 12 years. Ernest has acquired varied experience in developing and shaping signature programming focusing on basic needs, disaster recovery, youth development, adult and family literacy, senior services, workforce development, art education, and homeless prevention. During 20+ years of service in the nonprofit arena, Ernest has cultivated, secured, and managed more than $20 million in private, federal, and public funds to advance the mission of many noteworthy nonprofits in New Orleans and Houston.

The American Leadership Class XL Senior Fellow and Literacy Texas and ARTreach Board President holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. Ernest is also a member of the Houston-Galveston Area Council Workforce Development Board and the Pearland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Claire Gilliam

Claire is currently a Texas AEL Instructor with a focus in Digital Literacy for the Region 5 Adult Education Program which serves Jefferson, Orange, and Hardin counties in southeast Texas. Previously, she was Distance Learning Coordinator, Tech Integration Coach, and Adult Basic Education (ABE) & High School Equivalency (HSE) Instructor at the Literacy Council of Tyler in East Texas.

She enjoys giving back to her community through the promotion of education and literacy. She has a bachelor’s degree in English (Linguistics) from the University of North Texas and currently she is completing a master’s degree in Adult Education from Texas A&M University. Claire is passionate about helping adults achieve their academic and life goals through literacy and technology.

Angela M. Johnson

Angela is the Director of Learning & Workforce Development at BakerRipley, and has been active in the field of adult education and workforce development for nearly 20 years. She has served as a program lead for distance education, workforce development, college prep, and internationally trained professionals. She has collaborated with various industries on workforce initiatives, job readiness, and capacity building grants supporting the upskill of incumbents and new entrants in healthcare, construction, oil and gas, and service industries.

Angela holds an advanced degree in business, has completed course work for the doctoral program in developmental education at Sam Houston State University, and is conducting research on measures of student resilience and grit for her dissertation.

Martin Loa

Martin is Past President of TALAE (Texas Association for Literacy in Adult Education). He previously served as vice president for Houston Center for Literacy, where he supported the literacy organizations, engaged the community to join efforts in solving Houston’s low literacy problem, and connected adult learners to literacy providers. Prior to joining HCL, Martin was a program manager for Harris County Department of Education Adult Education Division. HCDE is the second largest adult education provider in the state. He is an experienced educator, trainer and conference organizer. Martin has served as an instructor and an administrator in Adult Education.

Wes Young

Wes is the Executive Director of Tarrant Literacy Coalition, a nonprofit located in Fort Worth, Texas. He has spent the last 7.5 years working in adult education classrooms of all types including tutoring Adult Basic Literacy students in Fort Worth & Arlington, teaching HSE in White Settlement and Fort Worth, and digital literacy classes in Arlington. Wes and the Coalition emphasize program creation and resource support for community programs through professional development opportunities. In the realm of state-funded AEL, the Coalition offers two innovative and groundbreaking services: the Adult Education and Literacy Call Center – a referral service for adult learners in North Texas – and the newly established Orientation & Testing Team – responsible for handling all new student orientations, pre- and post-testing for our local consortium. He holds a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of North Texas.

Jackie Aguilera

Jackie Aguilera, Project Manager of the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy (MOAL) Houston, has dedicated more than three decades of her life to tutoring, teaching, training, consulting, serving student support services for “at risk” college students, and contributing to non-profit leadership for community based adult literacy organizations. She was recently nationally recognized as one of 2021’s Mujeres Legendarias de Ford (a legendary Latina woman) for education through technology.

Jackie has led many literacy initiatives and projects including the McGraw Hill sponsored Financial Literacy Carnival, Houston Money Week, [email protected] program, the Houston Area Adult Literacy Collective, and the 2019 Xprize Tier 3 winning team, the Adult Literacy Partners of Houston. As an advocate, she is one of two Texas State Advocates for Adult Education Fellows through COABE. Her current position at MOAL allows her to explore literacy innovation on an expanded scale and to help the team develop support for providers across the nation.


October 29, 2021
9:00 am - 12:00 pm
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Online Event – Zoom


Adult Education Center
Literacy Texas

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