Alaska Literacy Program

Our Story

Changing Lives Through Literacy since 1974

Welcome to Alaska Literacy Program

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ALP has come to define literacy as more than just reading, writing, and speaking.

Our mission statement of changing lives through literacy extends into digital literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, family literacy, and beyond. These are all areas of literacy that improve self-sufficiency and empower individuals to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being.

Our Story

Alaska Literacy Program is a volunteer-based community agency with the mission of changing lives through literacy. For 50 years, we have taught adults to read, write and speak English. The learners come from all over the world, including the United States. They come to class to learn the skills needed to get and keep a job in Alaska, help their children in school, become citizens and understand their new home country.

Since 1974, ALP has been providing literacy services to Anchorage residents and individuals throughout the state. ALP recruits, trains, certifies, and supports volunteer teachers who work in a classroom setting teaching reading, writing and speaking English to adults. ALP provides these core English language classes year-round for adults and families with young children, concentrating on those most in need. In recent years we’ve also gained the opportunity to serve other Anchorage area adult learners such as GED students.

Over time, ALP has grown to define literacy as more than reading and writing: it includes having the skills needed to navigate our complex and rapidly changing world. It is the philosophy of Alaska Literacy Program that adults have the right to be free from the burden of illiteracy - free to function as independent, productive citizens. For ALP families, this looks like digital literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, and family literacy. Through this comprehensive framework, ALP is increasing the self-sufficiency of our ELL adults, changing lives and enriching our community.

Today, ALP provides GED test prep services, supporting adults to overcome this long-standing barrier to employment and career advancement. ALP's Peer Leader Navigator initiative provides information on important health and life topics to people who face barriers in finding that information themselves.

ALP is an accredited member of ProLiteracy, the largest volunteer literacy organization in the world.

Our History

The Alaska Literacy Program (ALP) is a volunteer based non-profit that has provided basic literacy instruction to adults in the Anchorage area for 50 years. ALP has remained responsive to the increasing need for adult basic education and English literacy by developing and adding classes and programs that further our mission of "changing lives through literacy."

ALP began in 1974 as the Anchorage Literacy Project when a small group of dedicated individuals led by Frances Jones wanted to make a difference in the lives of adults with minimal reading skills. We were an all-volunteer agency until 1983 when Jackie Johnson became the first Executive Director. In 1986, ALP moved into permanent housing by purchasing 2 office condominiums on Rudakof Circle. Donna Chaikoff served as Executive Director from 1989-1999. Polly Smith became Executive Director in 1999 and served for 20 years until 2019 when Lori Pickett, our current director, came to the office after serving herself for over 20 years in other capacities.

In 2021, ALP received a 4-year Department of Labor grant to be the Anchorage Regional Adult Education provider, upgraded its technology to support online classes, eliminated enrollment fees and increased staff with meaningful outcomes, breaking down traditional barriers to services and increasing both enrollment and participation. In FY22, ALP served individuals from 64 different countries of origin, representing 16 global regions. We held 125 in-person classes and 71 online classes, serving over 600 students. This figure is expected to increase annually as the GED program and statewide online enrollment grow. ALP's staff grows and shrinks depending on grant cycles and funding availability.

Regardless of size, ALP stays on the cutting edge of volunteer literacy programs. We developed our own video training tapes in 1986, one year before the national organization. Our work addressing adults with learning disabilities helped foster the Multi-Sensory Instruction Program which was prominent in a national seven year study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, 1998-2005. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we went from having only in-person classes to buying a Zoom subscription, training our staff and a few volunteers, and starting all online classes within a few months. We grew to maintain a full schedule of online classes throughout the pandemic and still continue some today after online opportunities proved to be a barrier buster for students with transportation or childcare barriers.

One of our greatest innovations has been our Peer Leader Navigator (PLN) program which started in 2013 after we co-founded The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative (TAHLC) with UAA’s Department of Public Health and several other community health focused organizations. PLNs are multilingual people (often current or former ALP students) trained to find reliable health information and regularly hear from local organizations about how to best access their services. They take this information to their family, friends, neighbors, church members, and community. They talk to people where they are to help connect them to information and services.

The pandemic showed the PLN program's value to the greater community by exposing the critical importance of equitable access to public health information. During the pandemic, PLNs provided service to 7,000+ community members focused on COVID-19 relief/vaccine/testing, food, housing, healthcare, education and all basic needs.

Awards and Recognition

1999-2002: Outstanding Program Award, Laubach Literacy America

2003: Outstanding Adult Education Teacher, Gladys Geertz, awarded by Commission on Adult Basic Education

2004: Model Program for the Dollar General/ProLiteracy Program Accountability Initiative - Data

2006: Outstanding Adult Learner, awarded by Commission on Adult Basic Education

2006: Model Program for the Dollar General/ProLiteracy Program Accountability Initiative

2008: Model Program for the Dollar General/ProLiteracy Program Accountability Initiative

2009: Outstanding Volunteer Program Award for the BP Golden Heart Volunteer Service Awards, awarded by AAVA

2013: Partners in Adult Learning Services, The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative, awarded by Commission on Adult Basic Education

2013: Innovative Program, The Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative, awarded by Institute for Healthcare Advancement

Alaska Adult Education Awards Administrator's Award - 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2012

President's Award - 1981, 2010, 2012, 2014

Program Award - 1990, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2013

Outstanding Adult Educator - 2001, 2002, 2004

Outstanding Volunteer - 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012

Rising Star Award - 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012

Our Peer Leader Navigator program has been published in news articles and health journals over a dozen times. You can find the links to these articles on the PLN website,