Meet EA’s Lynne Brenner Who’s Watering Seeds and Growing Literacy

by | Jul 13, 2020 | EA Staff News, EA Stories, NE Ohio in the News, Networking & Connections, Recruitment & Relocation, Volunteering

Could you share a bit about yourself Lynne, where you’ve lived in and outside of NE Ohio? Growing up I moved every few years and landed in Cleveland during high school. I’ve lived in multiple communities; east, downtown, and west. My husband and partner of 30+ years, Tom, and I are empty nesters with four adult children, and recently welcomed two wonderful daughters-in-law. Post college I worked in the banking industry, and then decided to stay at home with my children to be more involved with their lives and with the community, and to support philanthropic organizations.

How long have you been with EA and what drew you to our company? A friend referred me to Executive Arrangements eight years ago. EA was looking to fill a position with someone familiar with communities in Lorain County. From the initial interview, I felt I was a good fit. Having lived in 8+ communities in NE Ohio and with my many moves throughout the Midwest as a child I just knew I could relate to our candidates. Meeting people, sharing Cleveland’s wonderful amenities, and helping them feel secure and comfortable is very rewarding. I wanted to make a difference and assist in introducing good people to NE Ohio.

In your eight years with EA we have seen your heart and passion for volunteering. What other organizations have you shared your time with prior to Seeds of Literacy? I’ve held board positions for PTA and Avon Junior Women’s Club, and volunteered at animal shelters. I currently work with disabled children using horses as therapy and support families who foster children and environmental organizations. I  enjoy a seasonal staff position with the Cleveland International Film Festival and volunteered for eight years prior to this role.

Fundraising event at Cleveland Urban Winery in Cleveland Heights.

Speaking of Seeds of Literacy, WOW, they are doing amazing work! Yes, they are! The difference they make in adults’ lives drew me to Seeds two years ago. I began tutoring, meeting with students in one of their two locations. I have also worked on the fundraising committee and attended community events to bring awareness to the program. Since 1997, Seeds has provided free, one-to-one tutoring in basic education and high school equivalency (HSE) preparation to adults in Cuyahoga County. One-to-one tutoring offers maximum learning by building relationships of trust between the student and the tutor. It is a strong program that has student retention and graduation rates that are twice the national average. Our goal is simple: to help our students increase literacy levels, strengthen educational foundations, and grow to love learning, in order to help our students, break the cycle of poverty and find success in life.

I miss being with our students in person, and am grateful that we can still “see” one another thru our online platforms.

With COVID-19 how has your volunteering continued with students? Seeds was forced to suspend operations at our two sites. So that students’ learning and progress would not be impacted, they provided special training to more than 60 volunteer tutors.  As a result, Seeds was able to implement and offer four new online platforms: Tele-Tutoring allowing students to work with tutors and staff 4 days/wk via teleconferencing, Live video lessons facilitated and supported by staff and posted on our website and YouTube channel, Table Sessions where individual tutors are available to help students with questions on any subject at a virtual “table”, and Online resources to support both student and tutor needs. Seeds is accepting new students. Contact the VP of Programming [email protected] for more information. 

I’ve met so many wonderful people volunteering with Seeds; our students and team of volunteers!

Can you share a particular story about a particular student? I have had the privilege to work with so many wonderful students. Here is one recent story. With face-to-face meetings suspended in March because of the pandemic, Seeds started holding classes online. Tachonna was not deterred and welcomed the opportunity to keep moving forward with the program online. Her children were her motivation, as their school buildings closed they all “attended” school together safe at home. Tachonna and her children made lifetime memories of studying together during this challenging time. What a role model she is for her children to see the importance and value she’s placed on her education. Tachonna is diligently working on her studies towards passing the GED test. Our team at Seeds is so proud of Tachonna!

If you could change one element or focus of education today what would it be? I’d like to see a concerted effort placed on adult literacy. Our communities must address adult illiteracy simultaneously as we look to ensure children’s literacy. Illiteracy is cyclical. A mother’s reading skill is the single strongest determinant of her child’s future academic success. I would like to see our system educate students on how to operate a computer, make internet accessible to their districts, and provide devices to each student and staff member.  25% of households in Cleveland proper, where most Seeds’ students reside, have no access to internet service or computers. During the pandemic, with schools closed and education only accessible online these inequities have only widened.

EA helps to bring couples and families to NE Ohio for a new job, and we are often asked how to get plugged into their new community. Our empty nesters are particularly concerned about starting over again. How might one get involved with Seeds of Literacy? Seeds is seeking volunteers to tutor, especially on video. There are many topics to choose from, you do not need to be a teacher or have had experience in education. Tutor training is held online every Monday morning from 11-12 noon. Email Volunteer Coordinator, Sharon Farrer, [email protected] or call 216.661.7950. If you are unable to offer your time and have resources to share, Seeds is in need of donations.