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Bernita Fulmer driving force

April 09, 2001

behind adult literacy program

Editor's note: This is one in a continuing series of stories on the Literacy Volunteers of America/Imperial Valley Chapter previewing its May 3 annual community spelling bee.

Bernita Fulmer was the driving force behind the original proposal to bring an adult literacy program to Imperial County.

At the time she was the county librarian, a position she held until 1993. During her career she observed many changes in Imperial County. Among them was the need of higher level literacy and critical thinking for those not attending school.

When the California State Library announced it would have money for adult literacy programs at local libraries, Fulmer called city librarians from Calexico to Brawley.

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Local library officials knew from the 1980 census that Imperial County had a population of 80,000 and other areas had larger populations.

The librarians formed a coalition, wrote a proposal to obtain funding for a countywide literacy program. The proposal was accepted and funding was granted to the area.

In summer 1984, Dick Fragale, now the superintendent of Central Union High School District in El Centro, and a small charter group established the literacy program that exists today. A board was formed to guide the literacy program.

The board hired Colleen Tobin from the San Diego area to head the program. It was her recommendation that the board contact Literacy Volunteers of America in Syracuse, N.Y. Tobin worked to establish a sound foundation.

When she left the program the board hired Lyvier Conns as director. Conns helped market the fledgling organization and helped push forward fund-raising efforts.

One fund-raising event was the Executive Spelling Bee on September 28, 1989.

Conns later moved closer to her family in Phoenix and the board hired Phyllis Colter in May 1991. She followed her predecessors well-laid plans and expanded the educational side to include families for literacy, community-based English parent tutor training and work site literacy.

LVA/IV's mission statement is: "To assist adults improve their reading to enable them to realize their potential; train volunteer tutors to aid them; and provide technical assistance to guide these activities valley-wide at no cost."

The brochure proclaims that LVA volunteer tutors make a difference in the community. It also points out that supporters sustain the organization.

Fulmer, in a recent interview, said bringing the adult literacy program to Imperial Valley is one of her best decisions.

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