WE LEARN (Women Expanding Literacy Education Action Resource Network)

is a community promoting women’s literacy as a tool that fosters empowerment and equity for women.

    Student Leadership - Development & Support

    WE LEARN supports student involvement and leadership. We seek and value student input and decision-making. Adult literacy and basic education learners participate on all WE LEARN committees, work teams, and the Board of Directors.

    Students – We WANT your involvement!


    Meet WE LEARN's Student Leaders

    You too could be featured here some day!

    Donna Jones, San Francisco, CA

    Donna Jones has been involved as a student leader in WE LEARN since 2006. She has used her talents to make many strong contributions to our work. She has been:

    Donna encourages students in many ways, but especially to become confident writers. Donna offers workshops in her local area to encourage and improve student writing. She also advocates for women's empowerment through literacy and has been an inspiration to student leaders both in WE LEARN and in ProLiteracy. In her Fall 2009 column, Donna wrote:

    “Being active in WE LEARN will put you in the place where you, too, can receive … strength, love and support. That is if you want and need it. Gener­ally, all of us at some point in our adult literacy lives need it. I will offer a small piece of advice: get in­volved with WE LEARN and it will be a heck of an experience.”


    Diana Hunter, San Diego, CA

    Diana Hunter has the distinction of being the first adult literacy learner member on the WE LEARN Board of Directors. She served a three-year term from 2008-2011.

    Diana first heard about WE LEARN when her teacher asked her to write an essay for Women’s Perspectives. Her article, “Speaking from the Heart,” was published in 2007. She traveled to Boston to read her essay at the Student Writing Celebration at the conference and quickly became a WE LEARN family member. Diana wrote about this experience, “It was the very first time in my life that I opened myself up to other women. The sup­port I got from WE LEARN was the best experience I have ever had in my life.”

    When invited to join the Board of Directors, Diana overcame her fear and quickly accepted the opportunity. She joined with Marie Doerner, her teacher, advocate, and mentor. Together they opened new ground for WE LEARN. Diana helped to educate the board on how adult learners can make meaningful contributions to the organization. Her leadership, input, and decision-making have been extremely valuable.

    In Spring 2008, Diana wrote:

    “Being on the WE LEARN Board of Directors is an honor for me. I have been looking for the opportunity to work with women to help them overcome the obstacles in their lives. I know life is a challenge, but I know that working with these women would be uplifting for me, and them as well. I have been able to overcome many challenges, even though it’s been very hard for me to go through so many life changes. It is a dream for me to be able to help women look in the mirror and see the real person they are. Mostly, I want to be an advocate for women to help them regain their confidence and self-esteem.”

    Currently, Diana is pursuing her GED at San Diego Community College.


    Kathryn Ssedoga, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

    Kathryn Ssedoga has embraced her participation in WE LEARN with gusto. She first sent writing for Women’s Perspectives #4, along with some photographs she had taken. The committee enjoyed her photos so much she received an Honors Award for them. They were placed on the front cover and started a new trend. Since then Women’s Perspectives all have had color photos on the cover! Using her student scholarship award, Kathryn was able to raise additional funding for her travel to the 2009 conference. She ventured on her own from Guelph, Ontario Canada to Providence, RI USA. She also developed and presented a workshop called Laughter as a Literacy Tool. It was enjoyed and embraced by many conference participants.

    Since then Kathryn has participated in WE LEARN in many ways:

    In Spring 2009, Kathryn wrote of her experience with WE LEARN:

    “Passion is the word that best sums up my experience of WE LEARN. Passion is a life-giving self-renewing energy force. I am a passionate woman and it was my passion for laughter and healing that lead the way and gave me courage to put in an application to do a workshop.

    At WE LEARN I met many other passionate women. Women passionate about women and literacy! This shared passion allowed us to bond together for a weekend as equals. The conference provided an arena where passionate women honoured one another, not because of academic, social or economic standing, but because our shared pas­sion allowed us to see the innate value within each other without needing to rely on some external measure, title or label.

    At different times in my life I have been at social justice events. I have heard the ideal of equality and equity spo­ken of and preached but, until I went to the WE LEARN Conference, I had never experienced it lived.”


    Shellie Walters, Sumner, WA 

    Shellie Waters joined the WE LEARN Board of Directors in 2010. She is also active on both the Women’s Perspectives and Conference committees. She is an ABE student and leader.  She always works to develop other students around her. In addition to her work at WE LEARN, Shellie is the Vice Chair for the Student Advisory Council for ProLiteracy. She is also involved in the Seattle Speakers Bureau and helps to recruit new students to join.

    These are some thoughts Shellie included in her introduction to 2010 Women’s Perspectives #6.

    “As students, we often put ourselves down. We don’t think we can do anything. We put ourselves down just because we can’t read or write well or can’t do math, and maybe we don’t have a very good education or had bad experiences in school. We didn’t think we could be good or useful until we had a good education.

    But what were we doing with what we DID have before we came into a literacy program?....

    Women who have poor reading and writing still have lots of other skills, though they might not recognize them as important. …. So, when we come back to school, we’re seen as lacking. We celebrate our school successes AFTER we come back, but we forget that we were also productive before!

    We have always found ways to make things work in our lives. We have skills in everyday survival beyond what reading can teach us, but we forget we have these coping/surviving skills. For example, many women have a good work ethic. They are good workers and are able to keep a job. When women come back to school, the teachers or tutors get focused on how much education they don’t have rather than how they are or what they can already do….

    As students, we need to have a look at what we DO have rather than what we don’t have. We DO have an important point of view. We ARE already making contributions to society, and they will become stronger with more education.”


    Student Scholarship Fund

    Through the Student Scholarship Fund in honor of the work of Elizabeth Morrish, WE LEARN reserves funds designated for scholarships and stipends to adult learners for their participation in WE LEARN activities.

    Examples include:

    • Awards for selected writing sent to Women’s Perspectives
    • Conference registrations
    • Travel-related expenses for conference and special events
    • Student participation on the board of directors, leadership development projects, and other student-focused activities

    altThis fund operates solely from donations or special fundraising events. When making a donation, be sure to indicate your support to this fund.

    How to receive an ABE student scholarship award….

    • Women’s Perspectives: Send your writing by the deadline. Be sure to follow the guidelines for the issue. From all the writings we receive, the Selection Committee chooses the ones that show outstanding effort and give clear expression to the theme. Cash awards are given in two categories, Honors and Honorable Mention.
    • Conference: Use the Application Form available on our conference web page. Forms are generally available in November and awards are made in January prior to the conference.
    • Leadership activities: As available. Please, watch for announcements.

    Our ability to give financial awards or stipends depends on how much we have in the fund account. We have no set amount for any award.


    Elizabeth Morrish (1952-2003)

    WE LEARN’s Student Scholarship Fund was created to honor the memory of Elizabeth Morrish and to commemorate her work and commitment to adult learners. A creative teacher and strong women's advocate, Elizabeth was committed to working with learners on issues of health and violence, especially as they affect women. Elizabeth worked for World Education from 1995 to 2003. Her roles included Director of the Women, Violence, and Adult Education Project, Literacy Specialist for the Health Education and Literacy (HEAL) Project, Director of the Statewide Technical Assistance Program, and Project Coordinator for the Channing L. Bete Company Evaluation Project. At the time of her passing, Elizabeth had been supporting WE LEARN in our early development. Many of our founding members were friends and colleagues to Elizabeth. We still miss her vision, energy, and guidance.

    Some of Elizabeth’s work and writing can still be found on the Internet:

    Coming Soon!

    Watch this space for an adult learner blog or chat!