RSS Feed
Call us today (713) 266-8777
Change lives: Volunteer
Become a volunteer now
Decrease text sizeIncrease text size

News & Updates for March 2019

newsThis month:


A note from the CEO

What does it mean to be 36 years old?

martha macrisMAM marks its 36th year this month. While 1983 was a long time ago, there are many components of our work that remain intact. It is as if our DNA hasn't altered but we have added some muscle mass here and there; we take up a lot more space and interact with more people and entities.

We use different words but our mission is the same: to assure families the means to meet their basic needs. Our programming is more comprehensive but we work from the same core belief: that we all have a place in this world where we can connect, contribute and thrive; some need help finding that place. At age 36 we begin to see the long-term impact of our work.

MAM recently co-sponsored "PopUp Business School", a training program for entrepreneurs who are starting a business but are not in a position to take on any debt. As we got to know some of the student participants, we learned that many had a MAM story to tell.

One woman had come to this country decades ago and found help with rent, clothing, and household goods. She remembered sitting in the MAM parking lot and crying for hours because "I couldn't believe that people could be so kind and help so generously".

Another told a story of how MAM rent assistance had kept her and her children from being evicted at a time when they were most vulnerable. Both have gone on to thrive and are now looking to start their own businesses.

From time to time we meet other adults who remember coming to MAM as a child. They wore MAM eyeglasses or MAM-sponsored clothing or saw a doctor because we are a caring community.

It is heartwarming to know that at age 36, we are still serving, still making an impact but the work we did at age 5 or 10 or 20 has had a lasting effect and made a difference.

No matter what kind of day you had, tough, joyful, slow, overwhelming, please remember that your volunteer work makes a difference.



Leadership Update

MAM President & CEO announces retirement

newsEarlier this month, Martha Macris, President and CEO of Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), announced her plans to retire at the end of the year.

Ms. Macris has been with the organization since 2005 when she was hired as MAM’s first Executive Director. Since that time, MAM has grown from a small ministry with a budget of $700,000 to one of Houston’s most highly rated and effective nonprofits.

“It has been my greatest honor to lead an exceptionally talented team at Memorial Assistance Ministries and to help represent this organization in the greater Houston community. I have the utmost respect for the governing Board of Directors and I know they will make an excellent choice in their search for the next CEO. I'm deeply grateful to the donors and volunteers who have helped pave the way for our successes and I look forward to seeing new achievements through the lens of a President Emerita,” said Macris.

Read more here.


Change of location for ABE classes

New opportunities at CrossWalk Houston

ABE classWe’re overjoyed to have a great option opening up for our ABE students, that we believe will continue to provide a deeply nurturing and helpful community environment, and allow the program to grow and thrive in new ways. 

In approximately the first week of April, 2019, the ABE program will move to a new location, the Outreach Center of West Houston. Programs at the Outreach Center are administered by CrossWalk Houston, an initiative of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, so we will be handing over program administration to the CrossWalk staff over the coming months. 

We encourage our committed volunteers within the ABE program to follow students to the new location (which is less than 4 miles away from Wilcrest). However, should you not wish to do that, of course you will be very welcome to explore new volunteer opportunities at MAM Literacy Advance, or MAM main campus on Blalock.

For over a year, we have been exploring new options for the ABE program, as we have not been able to grow the program recently at Wilcrest. While existing classes have continued to meet, we have not started any new classes, or held any ABE New Tutor Training sessions, for the last 6 – 8 months as we explored other possibilities.

Save the date for our farewell celebration at MAM Literacy Advance:

Wednesday, March 20, 10am - 12pm

Watch this space for the date of our planned welcome celebration at the Outreach Center!

And please talk to Kathryn Bauchelle or Colleen Mayer with any questions: 713.266.8777


Theme of the Month

All things HOUSTON!

houstonThis month, our theme is all things Houston. Our city is full of places to explore, but finding the best options can be confusing and overwhelming for newcomers.

This month’s featured activities will keep students engaged as they practice speaking, listening, vocabulary and more, all rooted in their new home: Houston. Check the Wilcrest Resource Room for all of the below!

Houston is famous for its very many freeways and very few public transportation options. This is a big change for many of our students! You can help them feel more confident as they move around town with activities specifically focused on reading maps and giving directions.

Maybe even in the same lesson, they can learn about major events across the city, such as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the Art Car Parade. Students can explore the rodeo’s many family-friendly activities and map the best ways of getting there. See if your students know about other Houston events!

For additional activities on reading maps and giving directions, try the resource book Talk-A-Tivities, paired with an excerpt from the Key Map of Harris County. Especially if your students are parents or caregivers, you might challenge them to locate major neighborhoods on the map, like the Museum District, or other fun places to take kids.

We’ve recently been talking about games in the classroom as a way to keep students active, so we’ve provided a Houston-themed activity packet for students to work on in pairs or small groups. For more advanced levels, you can keep the fun going with one of our featured videos on Houston, emphasizing listening and comprehension skills in the classroom.

If you’re looking to spark more conversation in the classroom, check “17 Interesting Houston Facts,” with conversation prompts included. Similar to Cathy’s Cards and Conversations to Go (year-round popular conversation-starter resources), these prompts will get students talking about Houston and their own hometowns.

The opportunities for students to listen and share are invaluable to creating a sense of belonging and community in your classroom!

The rest of the year:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
April Money & Banking Houston Money Week; banking options; Promise Credit Union; dangers of Payday Lending and better alternatives
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners
June  Jobs How to apply for jobs; interview skills; what's typical in a US-style resume 
July  Getting Ready for School  Getting kids ready to go back to school; options at school including after-school care and clubs
August Shopping & Restaurants  Houston Restaurant Weeks; loyalty clubs and benefits; online shopping risks and benefits 
September  Immigration & Citizenship  Requirements for U.S. citizenship including eligibility, paperwork, and fees
October Health    Health Literacy Month; questions to ask the doctor; advocating for your own health; open enrollment in the ACA
November Libraries   What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online? 
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December

Every month, we will feature resources and ideas that match the theme. Discovered something excellent? Let us in on your secrets! Talk to Colleen with ideas and new resources that match the theme.


Top Tutor Tips

Promoting Read Aloud Month

read aloudWe know you know how truly life-changing literacy can be for an adult, and we LOVE that you focus on strengthening your students’ skills each week. Now is the perfect time to be practicing, because March is Read Aloud Month and YOU can help your students prepare to master the 15 Minute Challenge.

The idea is simple, but the effects are profound. "When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, it will change the face of education in this nation."

Whether the students in your classroom are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or friends, they can play a part in the transformative nature of literacy. In class this month, we challenge YOU to get students reading aloud to build vocabulary, comprehension, and confidence. The experience better prepares them to return home and repeat the process with their families or family friends.

How can you help? If your students are parents of school-aged children, ask them to bring in a copy of their child’s reading homework to practice aloud with the group. You can also browse the reading shelves in the Resource Room for level-appropriate novels and short stories to use in your classroom – if you need help, staff would love to show you some of our favorites!

We also always want to be sure students know about the invaluable local resource right down the road at the Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library. If your students don’t yet have library cards, or have never checked out a book, now’s the time!

If you have any questions or comments about the strategies suggested here, contact Courtney at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group.


Training opportunities

Many ways to keep on learning

We know that there's strength (and joy!) in numbers, and we commit to supporting our volunteers in multiple ways. One of those is providing regular opportunities for continued learning.

Saturday, March 30
Beginner Level ESL Classroom Activities

Wednesday, April 17
Presentation: Practical Tools to Help Tutors Take Advantage of Varied Abilities in the Adult Classroom

This presentation will be by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein, ESL teacher-trainer and co-author of the Oxford Picture Dictionary series – a favorite amongst MAM Literacy Advance tutors! 

Saturday, April 27
Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium

Save the date! More details to come. This year, the symposium will be presented by Adult Reading Center, in conjunction with Literacy Texas.

Learn more about all of the above, and find how to RSVP.


Help your fellow tutors

Give them the gift of an empty, clean room

Please help your fellow tutors start their class on time, by leaving your class on time!

We LOVE having so many students in classes this semester, but that means having to schedule many classrooms back-to-back. Please remember to start your journals 5 - 10 minutes before the end of your class so you can leave the room on time.

If you or your students need more time with your reflections, that's more than OK! The big table in the lobby is a place for you to spread out and take your time during our open business hours.


quality, free tax preparation

Tax Centers open NOW

Our friends at BakerRipley are offering FREE tax preparation at multiple sites across Houston. You can find a full listing in both English and Spanish, along with a map, at this link.

One of the biggest sites is MAM Blalock. Last year, 71 volunteers prepared 3,236 free tax returns at Memorial Assistance Ministries, saving our neighbors nearly $1 million in tax preparation fees. More than $4.7 million in refunds were issued from the MAM location!

Your students have until mid-April to take advantage of this FREE service. There are flyers (English and Spanish) in the Information Center in the Wilcrest foyer, or students can take a photo on their phones. If the students have questions, please refer them to Diana Delgado, the MAM Literacy Advance Transition Coach.

NOTE: Here's a checklist from BakerRipley, indicating what students should bring with them to make their tax meeting as productive as possible.


Bad weather? Not sure if class is on?

Step One: Check Facebook

We know that weather in Houston can be unpredictable. Sometimes we don't have a lot of notice that we'll need to close the office and cancel classes, and we don't always have time to call everyone. 

Facebook is a quick and easy way to update lots of people at once, so the Literacy Advance Facebook page always has the most up-to-date information about closings in cases of bad weather.

If you think there's a chance we might be closed, please check the page rather than calling the office. Look for this image, and click on it for the latest update:

You can check the Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account, so please bookmark the link above. And remind your students to do the same!

Of course, if the bad weather is local to your neighborhood, and you're the one who needs to cancel class because you're concerned about driving, please do call us and let us know.


Student Success Spotlights

Don't miss our Student Success Spotlights!

You helped make them possible.


Calendar Highlights

What's ahead? Mark your calendar!

calendarWe always want you to be up to date! So highlights of the Literacy Advance calendar are summarized below.

A more complete calendar can always be found online here, or you can check our Facebook Events page

Spring Semester 2019:
Monday, January 14 - Friday, May 24

Closed for Easter:
Friday, April 19 & Saturday, April 20

Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium
Saturday, April 27

Spring Graduation
Tuesday, May 28 (TBC)

Around the World
(11th annual student and volunteer celebration)
Friday, November 8

Last day of classes for 2019
Saturday, December 21


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

Share this page  
Our Partners

Literacy Advance supporters