Announcement, News, Press Release

Greenlight Fund Brings The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship to Atlanta

Oct 15, 2021


Greenlight Fund Atlanta Launches Second Portfolio Organization The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship

ATLANTA, GA – October 11, 2021 – Today, GreenLight Fund Atlanta announced a multi-year investment in The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship (LMF), an innovative, multi-generational literacy intervention program. LMF is designed to close the literacy gap that exists within traditionally underserved and marginalized communities. The program works with young men of color, between the ages of 18 to 24 and with a high school diploma or GED-equivalent, providing them with the opportunity to begin their careers in education by serving pre-K students as early literacy tutors for an entire school year.

After a rigorous, year-long selection effort in partnership with GreenLight Atlanta’s Selection Advisory Council, the impact of classroom instruction interruption was identified as an investment opportunity area. Learning loss, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with existing educational inequities, requires bold and immediate actions to thwart the widening literacy gap. Leading Men Fellowship tackles this challenge in three distinct ways:

  1. By closing the literacy gap through evidence-based, high-quality tutoring of pre-K students;
  2. By empowering young men of color with financial resources and personal and professional development; and
  3. Diversifying the teacher pipeline by laying the foundation for Black and Brown men to pursue careers as early childhood educators.

Research shows that Black students from low-income communities are significantly more likely to attend college when they have been taught by at least one Black teacher (Johns Hopkins University, 2017). This is because students become more confident and approach learning differently when they are being taught by teachers who look like them. Using the SEEDS of Learning methodology, LMF helps to build the confidence of young learners, setting them up for future academic success. The program’s data backs this up, showing that 87% of participating pre-K students grew towards kindergarten readiness from Fall to Spring.

According to Dr. Ken Zeff, Executive Director of Learn4Life and GreenLight Selection Advisory Council member, “The Leading Men Fellowship is a national model that has [been] proven to both accelerate learning and improve representation in the classroom. The GreenLight Fund is introducing exactly the type of innovation we need in metro Atlanta to meet this moment for our youngest learners.” 

When asked why he was such a fierce advocate for the Leading Men Fellowship, LMF alumnus Kenvin Lacayo said “I didn’t see a teacher who looked like me until high school. Without engaging young men of color such as myself and my colleagues in the fight for the future of our country’s preschoolers, I can promise you that we’ll never achieve the outcomes that we hope for.” 

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring agrees that the need is great and supports having LMF in Atlanta Public Schools for the 2022-2023 school year: “Our new partnership with The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship perfectly aligns with the APS strategic plan. Their innovative, multi-generational approach centers on equity and addresses two critical opportunities: accelerating literacy growth for our youngest learners while intentionally working to diversify our teacher pipeline, as men of color are severely underrepresented.”

“This is a special time in the evolution of The Literacy Lab as we clarify, solidify and expand our role in the educational equity landscape,” said Heather Jenkins, CEO of The Literacy Lab. “We will continue to build a collaborative environment in which student-centeredness, equitable practices, common purpose and community thrive. We are thrilled to have the opportunity, through our transformative Leading Men Fellowship, to partner with students, schools, communities and other stakeholders in Atlanta to work for greater educational, racial and economic equity.” 

According to Joli Cooper, GreenLight Atlanta Executive Director, “With every challenge lies opportunity and Leading Men Fellowship provides that opportunity. Through our community-driven process, we identified a need and as a result, our talented young men of color will now have the opportunity for meaningful career exploration in the field of early education and our pre-K scholars will have the opportunity for literacy coaching like they’ve never had before!”

GreenLight Atlanta’s multi-year financial and on-the-ground support along with strong local partnerships positions The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship to achieve impact in the short and long term. Additional financial investments from public and private partnerships including federal dollars are needed, and will ensure program sustainability for years to come.

Recruitment for the inaugural class of 20 Leading Men Fellows in Atlanta begins in January 2022. Fellows will begin tutoring in in Atlanta Public Schools pre-K classrooms in the Fall of 2022.