Literacy Project Executive Director Receives 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award

April 25, 2011

In recognition of her professional accomplishments and service to the community, Judith Roberts of Colrain will receive this year’s Greenfield Community College Distinguished Alumni Award. The Award will be presented at the Scholarship Awards Ceremony on May 1. The Distinguished Alumni Award is given each year to the GCC alumnus or alumna who has contributed to his or her community in an altruistic and exemplary way and risen to prominence in his or her industry or profession.

Mary McClintock, ’82

Roberts graduated from GCC with an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts in 1994. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology cum laude from Smith College in 2000, a Masters in Education with a specialization in Adult Community-Based Education from Harvard University in 2002, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Harvard Business School in 2009.

Roberts worked for more than 30 years in the business world, starting various small businesses and working in sales and marketing. Since 1999, Roberts has worked in the field of adult education. Currently, she is the Executive Director of The Literacy Project where she combines her business management skills with her passion for education. The Literacy Project is an independent nonprofit that has been providing adult literacy and GED classes, as well as college and career preparation services, in Franklin and Hampshire Counties since 1984.

Roberts knows firsthand the power of education to open doors of opportunity. She started taking courses at GCC when her youngest child was one year old. While working full-time, and sometimes also part-time on weekends, and raising her children, Roberts took one course a semester at GCC. It took 15 years for Roberts to complete her Associates degree. Commenting on her GCC experience, Roberts said, “I loved every minute of my time at GCC. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn and soak up knowledge. Even though I went on to study at other colleges, some of my favorite teachers were at GCC. They believed in us until we began to believe in ourselves.”

While pursuing her own education, Roberts fell in love with education and the life of the mind, experiencing the transformative power of education. As a student at Smith College, she volunteered for the America Reads program, tutoring teen mothers in Holyoke. Realizing how transformative her own education was for her, Roberts decided she wanted to work where she could “be there when the light bulbs go off in people’s minds, the moments when they realize ‘Yes, I am smart! Yes, I can learn!’”

Now Roberts uses what she describes as her “missionary zeal for education” to support students at The Literacy Project to continue on to college. She said, “At The Literacy Project, we recognize the importance of education and know that education opens the doors of opportunity. The work of The Literacy Project is to keep the doors of opportunity open for the least educated among us. We provide access to those who have not had access to education, to those who have not had that opportunity. Right now, we have a number of Literacy Project graduates doing very well at GCC. They are future GCC Distinguished Alumni and we are very proud of them.”

Along with her professional work, Roberts is active as a community volunteer. She serves on the Greenfield Advisory Board of the Department of Transitional Assistance, on the Youth Council of the Hampshire Franklin Regional Employment Board, on GCC’s Access Scholarship Fund Council, and as a volunteer for the Franklin County Free Community Meals Program. In the past, Roberts has served as a volunteer counselor with the Transitions Program at Franklin County Jail and as a Youth Group Leader for Parents Anonymous.

Commenting on this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award, GCC President Bob Pura said, “Our alumni continue to bring a great deal of pride to GCC. Judith provides yet another example of the ways in which our alumni distinguish themselves. Through her passion for literacy for all and her commitment to The Literacy Project, Judith helps transform the lives of people the Project serves and through that work, our community. I applaud her accomplishments and am pleased that she has been chosen for this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.”

Regina Curtis ’86, President of the GCC Alumni Association, said, “Judith represents much of what defines our students at GCC – she’s smart, has a tough core that persevered through the many years it took to complete her degrees as a non-traditional student, and is centered by a caring heart that led to her career helping others obtain the level of literacy they need for their own pathways to learning. The Alumni Association is pleased to recognize her personal accomplishments and her passion for promoting access to education with the award of the 2011 GCC Distinguished Alumni.”

For more information about GCC’s Distinguished Alumni Award, contact Regina Curtis at (413) 775-1426 or curtisr@gcc.mass.edu.

For more information about the work of The Literacy Project go to www.literacyproject.org

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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