Adult Learners Served for 30 Years at Dominican Literacy Center in Detroit


September 5, 2019

Executive Director Kimberly Williams says most students come to The Dominican Literacy Center to complete their GED.

Sometimes people just need a hand up to help them navigate life a little better. For thirty years, the Dominican Literacy Center in Detroit has been offering a hand up to local adults struggling to read. Some dropped out of high school when they were teenagers. Some were pulled out of school amid family crisis. Some have a high school diploma yet are unable to read the instructions on their prescription bottle. But many just want to accomplish the task of earning their GED, or General Education Diploma.

"For some of our older students, it's not so much that they're looking for a new career-especially if you're sixty plus...but it's something they want to check off their list," says Kimberly D. Williams, Executive Director of the Dominican Literacy Center. "Some of them have children that they sent to college but they haven't finished their own credentials, and so they come here; they know they're going to get the individual attention and they're not going to have to sit in a classroom full of 18-year olds."

Founded in 1989 by two Dominican Sisters, the Dominican Literacy Center (DLC) emphasizes basic skills such as reading, listening, math, basic computer literacy, and English as a Second Language, or ESL. Within the past decade, GED preparation has been added and continues to be well-received. As the program is actually a ministry, all educational programs are free of cost. Adults need not have any religious affiliation in order to take advantage of the program.

A native Detroiter, Williams came to DLC in 2006. After working for a large corporation out east, she says she wanted to get back to her hometown community. "I like working in communities, helping people in communities become empowered," she says. "This is a natural fit." DLC's mission is to enable learners to transform their lives by gaining skills to become successful parents, productive workers, and responsible citizens.

Williams says the largest group of DLC's students is between the ages of 25 and 44; the second largest group is between the ages of 45 and 60. In 2018, DLC registered 440 students; 292 stayed and completed their education. For adult learners, the obligations of adult life present the largest obstacle to education, including jobs, children, grandchildren, elderly parents, and transportation. "We make it a point to keep the stress level low," says Williams. "I always say, low stress, high quality instruction here."

Most students hear about DLC by word of mouth. New enrollees attend an initial orientation designed to let them know about the program and what if offers, and to identify their goals and expectations. An assessment follows which lets tutors know exactly what each student needs. Assessment scores are then

reviewed by the student with a registrar to discuss the type and level of instruction needed. One-on-one tutoring with trained volunteer tutors is standard practice at DLC. Additional options include small classes and online instruction. Williams says, "We meet the student right where they are."

Tutors at DLC are volunteers and come from many walks of life. Most are retirees who enjoy giving back to their community. Williams says the center always needs tutors and a new Tutor Orientation is scheduled for September 10.

Anthony King works on word pronunciation with tutor Esther

While DLC does not handle job training, they do partner with other entities such as Michigan Works to help people find jobs and brush up on resume writing and interviewing skills.

How does the organization explain 30 years of educational success? DLC treats all learners with compassion, respect, and hospitality, but Williams adds, "I think the key is the individualized attention that we give to each person that comes in."

DLC will be hosting a fundraiser for the center on September 26. The event will be an adult spelling bee emceed by WDIV's Andrew Humphrey, and will be held at the Jam Handy in Detroit. Tickets will be $30 and will be available online only. For more information about DLC, volunteer opportunities, or the fundraiser, go to


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