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Leader in Literacy Dr. Phail Wynn Jr.

Dr. Phail Wynn Jr. receives Leader in Literacy Award

Durham Literacy Center Holds Annual Breakfast, Honors Duke University’s Dr. Phail Wynn Jr. with Leader in Literacy Award

A few years ago, Clyde Owino struggled while attending an automotive educational program here in the Triangle. He suspected he had dyslexia.

Owino, who is from Kenya and now lives in Durham, searched the internet and the city for resources that would help him improve his literacy skills. He came across the Durham Literacy Center, and in April of 2015, enrolled in its Adult Literacy Program, where he received one-on-one tutoring and encouragement.

At the Durham Literacy Center’s annual Leaders in Literacy Breakfast on May 3, Owino stepped up to the lectern and shared his story with 185 community members in Durham’s Cotton Room. While taking tuition-free programs through the Durham Literacy Center to improve his spelling and reading comprehension skills, Owino graduated from the Aviation Systems Technology Program at Wayne Community College as well as passed the test to become an American citizen.

“I became more confident after going through the program at the Durham Literacy Center,” Owino said. “When I’d go there after hours, they’d always be there. The door was always open. Even on weekends when they were off, they were open and welcoming me and would come assist me with all of the help that I needed.”

This is the 11th year of the Leaders in Literacy Breakfast, which honors volunteers, staff and donors for their support of the Durham Literacy Center’s year-round work in the community.

At the breakfast, the Durham Literacy Center presented its annual Leader in Literacy Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that has helped Durham residents reach their literacy goals and promoted literacy in other geographic areas.

The 11th Leader in Literacy Award was presented to Dr. Phail Wynn Jr., Duke University’s Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs. Wynn has led the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs for 10 years and is set to retire on June 30, 2018. He previously served as president of Durham Technical Community College.

“I will continue to be, and I will always be, a passionate advocate for early literacy and adult literacy,” Wynn said after receiving the award.

During his time as community college president and Duke vice president, Wynn has bolstered education and literacy in Durham, to include establishing a strong partnership with the Durham Literacy Center. At Durham Tech, he implemented positive changes to the Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language programs.

While at Duke, he has connected the Durham Literacy Center with Duke volunteers, interns and financial support. Also, he has championed many Duke-sponsored, literacy-based programs in the community such as the Afterschool Reading Academy at Durham Public Schools sites, the America Reads/America Counts tutoring program at Duke, the Duke University Regional Spelling Bee, and more.

“Dr. Wynn’s imprint on Durham-Duke relations is profound,” said Lizzie Ellis-Furlong, the Durham Literacy Center’s executive director. “Because of his long, highly esteemed tenure at Durham Tech, he understands adult education and how important it is to have a thriving community where all individuals can contribute and care for their families.”

Marcia Morey, J.D., who represents District 30 in Durham County as part of the North Carolina House of Representatives, delivered this year’s keynote address at the breakfast. The Durham Literacy Center also honored past literacy leaders, supporters and volunteers Mary Dunn Siedow, the first executive director of the center; Jenny Lillian Semans Koortbojian; and Kalman Bland; who passed away in 2016 and 2017.

“Durham cares deeply about its neighbors,” Ellis-Furlong said. “This is evident in the support for adult literacy programming by the community in the form of volunteers, individual contributions, business sponsors and more. We all work together to make sure everyone can thrive.”

About the Durham Literacy Center

The Durham Literacy Center (DLC), established in 1985, has empowered more than 16,500 Durham County adults who want to enrich their lives by improving their literacy skills. The DLC provides tuition-free instruction for out-of-school youth and adults through its Adult Literacy, English Speakers for Other Languages, high school equivalency and computer literacy programs at its main site and at more than 10 partner sites throughout Durham County. It is a nonprofit organization that receives more than 75 percent of its funding from private sources.

Every year, about 200 DLC volunteer tutors work one-to-one with students and in small classrooms to serve more than 600 Durham adults and out-of-school youth. Thanks to the services provided in literacy, computer, financial and employment skills, DLC students are able to apply for jobs, confidently advocate for their children in school, make informed decisions about health care, vote, and feel empowered to make a difference in their communities.

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