Education Where it’s Needed, Not Just Where it’s Pleasant

The Northeast Ohio Media Group recently published a series of photos and profiles of youths in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland’s east side. The testimonials and statistics of “GrieveLand: Stories of Violence and Lost Dreams from the Streets of Mt. Pleasant” are heartbreaking and horrifying, telling of gangs, death, and poverty.

This is where Seeds of Literacy chose to open its east side location. And this is exactly why.

In a neighborhood where the functional illiteracy rates are as high as 85%, adult literacy is a key component of growing as a learner and as a person. It opens doors to higher education and employment.

We’re there because the situations that seem most dire are where literacy is most needed.

Yes, the neighborhood sounds scary. And if you live outside of the area, especially in a suburb where gang violence isn’t something you have to think about before heading to the convenient store, you might feel the impulse to ignore the neighborhood altogether, let alone volunteer there every week.

But that would be a mistake, because within these stories of violence and lost youth is burning hope for something more. Young — and not so young — adults in the neighborhood are making positive decisions to get their education back.

“It’s perception,” says Dolores Kirn, a longtime Seeds of Literacy tutor who switched to the east side location when it opened. “People have never even been in the area and they’ve decided they never want to go to there. But there’s a definite need for the program there, and the students are very friendly.”

The “GrieveLand” profiles are important because it feels like people want to ignore these stories. As though if you don’t listen, they’ll go away. Especially when Cleveland is having something of a renaissance, talking about these stories feels like it risks bruising the careful positioning of Cleveland in the national eye as more than “the mistake by the lake.”

But paying attention to these stories and working to help give them happier endings is how we make Cleveland stronger — for all of us.


You can bring life-changing literacy to our neighborhoods by donating to Seeds of Literacy today.