She leads a local organization that removes barriers to learning for adults seeking to re-engage in education. Read on to learn her secrets to success.
Cincy Chic: What is Education Matters?
Mary Delaney, Executive Director of Education Matters: Education Matters exists to remove barriers to learning for adults seeking to re-engage in education. We provide personal instruction at any level, from basic literacy all the way through college.
Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
Delaney: Education Matters has always been rooted in responding to the ideas and will of the community. We were founded in 1971 by mothers and grandmothers in Lower Price Hill seeking to address the dropout crisis in our community. They gathered around kitchen tables to tutor each other and their neighbors. This philosophy of community driven education is at the core of our work to this day.
Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
Delaney: We are a small team of 12 staff members (full-time and part-time), a crew of dedicated volunteers, and a fantastic board of directors. Many of our team members started at our organization as volunteers with AmeriCorps and have stayed with the organization. Several of our staff are also former students who re-engaged and advanced their education.
Cincy Chic: Can you share some of the projects and efforts of Education Matters around the city?
Delaney: One of our most recent efforts is the expansion of our English for Speakers of Other Languages, or English Connection, classes. We started a few years ago with 30 students in one small classroom and now we have over 300 students engaged at two locations. Just as our neighborhood mothers and grandmothers responded to community need in the 1970s with GED instruction, English classes and support for our immigrant neighbors is at a critical point in our city. We are working with Santa Maria Community Services to expand to reach many more immigrants in Price Hill and beyond.
Cincy Chic: What makes Education Matters such an important and unique organization?
Delaney: We do things a bit differently. We are an open door, flexible, work at your own pace type of place. We do not do large classes; we work with each student one-on-one to figure out what they need and where they are headed. We also know that life is complicated, so we offer students support with free onsite childcare, transportation help, a food pantry, and one-on-one support for employment. Why Education Matters? We know that education is not a magic wand that changes one’s life overnight, but it is the most essential link to more opportunity in the United States.
Cincy Chic: What inspires your personally in your everyday life?
Delaney: My daily inspiration is our students. There are not too many places in the city where you can walk in and hear 20+ languages spoken, chat with your neighbor about getting a new home, meet someone who just arrived in the U.S., and put your high school math skills to the test. Education is such an important part of my journey and I get to spend each day being a small part in that journey with so many others.
Cincy Chic: Can you share some of the journey that got you to where you are today?
Delaney: I grew up in a small town in what I jokingly call a tiny home, but most refer to as a trailer. Growing up I didn’t realize we were poor until I got to college and had exposure to a bigger world. I felt shame for my roots and I was afraid of being discovered as a “hick.” I let that shame follow me for many years. I practiced to get rid of my country accent, I studied anything I thought would make me seem more worldly, I hid myself. In 2010, I decided to volunteer for one year with AmeriCorps at Education Matters. It was there, through the wisdom of my students, that I truly found myself and learned that my history is my strength. I’ve been at EM ever since and eventually grew into the role of Executive Director. Today, my personal mission is to elevate and celebrate the strengths of each person and to challenge what society labels as faults to show that they are truly strengths.
Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along with Education Matters?
Delaney: You can learn more about our work and find ways to get engaged at emcincy.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.