GVSU club promotes urban literacy project

GVL / Courtesy - Evolve Education Club

Evolve Education Club

GVL / Courtesy – Evolve Education Club

Kate Branum

Reading and writing are two of the first lessons taught in school. For most of students, these important skills were mastered early-on and have become second nature, but for many other kids, these skills are foreign concepts.

Grand Valley State University’s Evolve Education club is a new, student-run organization that aims to raise awareness about the current state of education, as well as help support public schools in and around Grand Rapids.

Evolve Education was formed by education students last November and officially launched as a club this January. Meetings, held every other Monday, are focused on generating fresh ideas for projects and talking about education, also discussing teaching techniques and positive communication in the classroom.

Eventually, Evolve is aiming to offer mentorships for members looking to get hands-on experience working with young, at risk students.

Anyone passionate about making a difference in education can join Evolve, but the club is primarily intended to benefit those looking to major in education.

“Overall, our goal is create more awareness of the current state of education, create motivation to change it, and to hopefully progress and make it better,” said Levi Ryfiak, vice president of Evolve. “We want to be able to make an impact on a local, state and eventually, national level, because there are other clubs like us in other colleges and universities.

“If we can get recognized and become part of that interlink, we can help make a difference.”

As its first large project, Evolve is holding a change drive to promote urban literacy. All funds from the drive will go toward the support of the comic series “Wireman,” written and published by Sue Stauffacher.

Stauffacher created the comics after noticing a serious lack of books that assisted urban emergent readers. Wireman comics are designed to connect with hard-to-reach readers through the use of literature that features realistic characters and story plots with important issues.

In addition, the comics take a new, more personal approach to literacy.

Volume one in the series focuses on the use of the 100 most common words, which represents 50 percent of all written English. Volume two presents the 300 most common words, at about 65 percent.

Stauffacher is currently working on volumes three and four, with the goal of introducing readers to the 600 most common words, which means they will be able to read most of the English language.

Jerry Brown, an education professor at GVSU and full-time teacher at Wyoming Learning Center, is currently working with Evolve to help keep Wireman in publication.

Brown said he has been working alongside Stauffacher, editing and making changes to the story line to better fit students’ interests. He actively uses Wireman in his classroom and has recognized its success with students.

“The key to staying out of jail and off of social welfare is increasing your reading rate as high as you can,” Brown said. “So, my goal working with alternative kids, is to get their reading levels up. One thing that Wireman does, and what urban literature does, is it relates to the students. The people (in the comics) look like them, have similar problems and that makes it relevant for them.”

Since Stauffacher is publishing and funding the comic out-of-pocket, Evolve will raise money to cut down costs of her next volume in the series. The club is looking to make at least $800 by the end of the drive, which will conclude on March 4.

In addition to assisting with expenses, Evolve is helping Wireman gain recognition through social media. The group encourages students to follow Wireman’s Twitter account, @wiremancomics.