Recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the Durham Literacy Center and Honoring its Founder, Mrs. Mary Whaley Paul

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Recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the Durham Literacy Center and Honoring its Founder, Mrs. Mary Whaley Paul

HON. David E. Price


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Madam Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Durham Literacy Center and to honor its founder (and my constituent), Mrs. Mary Whaley Paul. Mrs. Paul has led a remarkable life and, along the way, she managed to spearhead the campaign against illiteracy in Durham, North Carolina.

Like so many people who achieve great things, Mrs. Paul didn’t set out to become a literacy advocate. In 1975, she was a widowed mother of two nearing retirement age. But she attended a workshop on teaching literacy skills to illiterate adults, and the course of her life was forever changed. By 1978, Mrs. Paul had begun leading her own literacy-instruction workshops, and she had become director of the Yates Baptist Literacy program that same year.

The creation of the Durham County Literacy Council in May of 1985 was a direct result of Mrs. Paul’s efforts to spread adult literacy instruction and increase the number of literate adults throughout Durham County. This Council later became the Durham Literacy Center.

The Durham Literacy Center targets the provision of its services to those most in need: adults who lack basic literacy skills, recent immigrants, and out-of-school teenagers. Since its inception, a small but dedicated staff has trained more than 2,000 literacy tutors who have served more than 12,000 Durham residents. The Center currently serves more than 550 adults per year at seven locations in Durham.

Growing along with Durham, the Center has evolved from a small organization to a pivotal provider of a variety of educational services. In addition to instruction in reading and writing, the Center helps individuals gain educational credentials (such as a GED) and provides instruction in workplace, computer, financial, and health literacy.

The impact of the Center on the lives of its graduates is Mrs. Paul’s most compelling legacy. For starters, graduates earn an average of $7,500 more per year than their counterparts who lack a GED or are not proficient in English. But in addition to securing better employment because of the skills they learn at the Durham Literacy Center, they also go on to receive promotions, purchase homes, improve their health, and enjoy a better quality of life.

Over the years, the Durham Literacy Center has become one of Durham’s greatest assets, and the organization’s achievements have much to do with the foresight and dream of Mary Whaley Paul and those who followed her. Mrs. Paul helped to illuminate a hidden segment of the Research Triangle populace—the non-reader—and has been instrumental in alleviating the severe economic and social stigma under which they struggle. She also has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for thousands to volunteer and make a difference in the Durham community.

It is in that spirit that I urge my colleagues to join me in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Durham Literacy Center and in honoring Mrs. Mary Whaley Paul for her efforts to empower the people of Durham County through literacy.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).