The WE LEARN Story…How We Came to BE
1996 (A little background)
Mev (Mary Evelyn) Miller developed Women Leading Through Reading (WLTR), in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. She collaborated with the Minnesota Literacy Council, area literacy programs, and the women’s community through a local feminist bookstore. The plan was to raise awareness about the challenges women face as they go back to school and to explore alternative ways for women to improve their literacy skills.
The project involved literacy learners, educators, and community supporters. That four-year project provided book discussion groups for 70 learners in 10 literacy centers. It uncovered the critical need for women-centered materials for adult literacy students. It also showed that literacy teachers and students needed help to develop instruction that focused on women's issues. An idea was born: build a resource network.
2000 (WE LEARN is born)
WE LEARN brings learners, researchers and teachers together.
From there, Mev started talking with literacy workers and women learners in literacy programs. These conversation circles became a participatory research project, and eventually her doctoral dissertation project! During this process, she met educators and students from across the U.S. and Canada who also strongly confirmed a need and desire for women-centered literacy resources and curriculum materials. They also wanted more on-going discussion and support around the issues facing women in adult basic/literacy education. As a result, WE LEARN gained definition and support. The full name for WE LEARN — Women Expanding Literacy Education Action Resource Network — was created by a passionate group of literacy workers who believed in the need for this organization.
2002 – 2003 (WE LEARN grows)
WE LEARN becomes a legal organization with a board of directors and starts a website
With a board of 5 visionary women and 13 members, WE LEARN was incorporated in 2002 and received status as a national educational non-profit organization in November 2003.
We had a two-fold purpose:
- To provide access to and easier-to-read information about women’s issues and experiences for women in adult basic/literacy education classes
- To create awareness in the general public about the issues and realities faced by women who need basic literacy, educational resources and opportunities
Work began to create a website to provide a collection of resources and community activities in an easy to access format. It included a listing of women-centered adult basic/literacy reading materials and curriculum resources. WE LEARN continues to create spaces on the web and in the community where women can discuss and research problems and their solutions.
The first annual conference and membership meeting was held in March, 2004. Eighty-seven people attended, including 8 adult learners (9%).
2005 - 2010
WE LEARN grew in with a number of projects including conferences, publications, training activities, and much more (see our Portfolio of Accomplishments, below.) As a volunteer, Mev Miller continued to be the Executive Director working closely with an active Board of Directors and energetic membership. The WE LEARN community grew to include close to 500+ members and donors. We also had an international impact with members from Canada, Belize, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Malaysia, Uganda, and Mexico.
2012 - Today
In 2012, Mev Miller resigned as Executive Director and now serves as the Agent for Service of Process. WE LEARN is now run and organzed by an active working board of directors. With their work, we have continued the publication of Women's Perspectives, move the conference to happen biennially, and reinvigorated the Facebook page and monthly e-newsletter. In 2015, we are revamping our website to achieve a BIGGER goal — to provide an interactive portal for resources, activities, and discussion that addresses the basic education, literacy, life skills and job training needs of adult women.