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Jared Rodriguez speaks to literacy advocacy

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The new Community Literacy Initiative Advisory Council co-chairperson answers questions about the future of both the coalition and the state of literacy in our city

Join a conversation around the issue of education!

The Center for Michigan will host a community conversation around education early next year. The results of this conversation will be compiled with those of the conversations held statewide, with the hope of impacting policy decisions in 2014 and beyond. The conversation is open to anyone interested in the issue of education.


Community Conversation 

Literacy Center of West Michigan

1120 Monroe Ave NW 

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Thursday, January 16



Jared Rodriguez

Jared Rodriguez

Jared Rodriguez, new Advisory Council co-chairperson to the Community Literacy Initiative (CLI), has a rich background of advocacy work in Grand Rapids and in the state of Michigan. Most recently, he founded and served as President of the West Michigan Policy Forum before launching the Calder Group earlier this year. 


What is your vision for the future work of the Community Literacy Initiative?

The Community Literacy Initiative is a great work-in-progress community collaborative designed to empower parents, community leaders and citizens to eradicate illiteracy in our region. CLI has developed a great foundation to build upon; however, the work pressing forward will include a community assessment of resources and development of priorities to impact change. I would like to see CLI focus energy around developing/cataloging data, implementing a community advocacy plan and serving as a collaborative change agent in our region and state.


How does your background provide you with a unique perspective in your new role as co-chair?

I have had the privilege of working with many community and business leaders throughout the region for the past 13 years developing advocacy plans and tools for change, and moving initiatives forward in our state legislature. Many of the anticipated strategies to combat illiteracy in our region will need the support of the governor, lawmakers (local and/or state), community organizations and business leaders to accomplish our mission. I will serve as a resource to our volunteer Advisory Council and staff in developing CLI into a think-and-do community advocacy resource.


Where do you see the greatest potential for our community in the area of literacy advocacy?

We have many great organizations in our community already engaged in advocacy efforts that we can align and collaborate with in order to speak with a much greater voice for change and awareness. The collaborative culture in our region will be the greatest strength to increasing literacy. CLI does not need to cover all facets of literacy and education, but instead should work to eliminate duplication and develop a “speak with one voice” coalition. 


Where do our community’s strengths lie and what are our needs moving forward?

Our greatest strength is the sincere interest in impacting positive change for all citizens. I’m a firm believer that our greatest natural resource is our “people” and building coalitions through collaborative thinking/doing is a major part of our community culture. Our short-term need is to develop a comprehensive community asset inventory and engage community, business and education-focused organizations (including CLI, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Community Schools, Talent2025, First Steps, Aquinas College, GRCC, etc.), touching literacy in a non-duplicative effort.


How can people who are passionate about literacy be effective advocates?

The best way to help or engage as an advocate is to educate yourself, your colleagues and other spheres of influence on the importance of literacy to our region and state. Talk to elected officials, volunteer your time and join the CLI effort.

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