Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA) used their June 26 annual general meeting (AGM) to celebrate and honour the organization’s learners.
“They put in so much work through the year,” organization administrator Shayla MacDonald said, talking to the Casket July 2.
“A lot of them have been here for a long time so we, kind of, made it more of a learners’ celebration, for a good portion of it.”
MacDonald talked about a few learners getting very close to passing their general education development (GED) test and two taking English as an additional language and doing very well.
“They have been here, in Canada, for about a year and have become almost fluent in English during that time; they’ve just put in a tremendous amount of work,” she said.
A few days prior to the AGM, ACALA hosted a celebration for their numerous volunteers.
“They made our programs happen this year,” MacDonald said.
“A lot of the people who come and volunteer here are retired teachers or professionals in the area who want to give time to help people improve their literacy skills. That is something we’re very thankful for; the community coming together and making sure we’re supported in our programming.”
Board chair Jessica Popp echoed those sentiments, adding the AGM was a good opportunity to thank staff as well.
“Shayla as our organization administrator and outdoing executive director Lise de Villiers, who wasn’t able to make it [to the AGM], but to be able to thank her for the incredible work she has done. Her work, alongside the board over the past number of years, has been instrumental in the organization’s success,” Popp said.
“And Shayla brings in some incredible experience with youth work and having really learner centered approaches. At the core of what ACALA is, it’s being able to support everyone coming through the door in a way they would like to be supported.
“So, for us, it’s really around thanking the staff and the volunteers, past and present, for the immense work they were able to accomplish throughout the year.”
Popp said the volunteer celebration and the AGM where learners were honoured are, actually, full community celebrations.
“It just reminds us how incredibly valuable the organization is to our community,” she said.
“I know I’ve said this before, but it’s not just about supporting the learning desires of individuals and families; ACALA is really a place which helps our community be more welcoming and connected. That place in the community where people can come together, learn and share; so we’re eternally grateful to the staff, volunteers and everyone who is able to participate to really make that a reality.”
Fit for Lit
Talking just prior to hosting their largest fundraiser of the year – Fit for Lit – MacDonald talked about its importance.
“It’s our main fundraiser and very important in making sure our programs do happen,” she said of the event, which took place July 6.
“This is the seventh Fit for Lit ACALA has run. We took a two-year break to run the Ducky Race and we’re now revisiting it and partnering with the Keppoch this year.
“They have been really wonderful in helping us get participants registered. They are allowing us to use their space and have really gone above and beyond to be wonderful partners with us.”
The event has been moved around the calendar to find a good weekend, and MacDonald noted a key was trying to find a day when it didn’t conflict with other important events going on in the community.
“The way we scheduled it; we sat down and looked at all the important events which are already happening in Antigonish, then we found a weekend where something wasn’t already going on,” she said, noting they’re just getting in before Highland Games’ activities start ramping up.
“So it was about finding a good weekend where people might be looking for something to do.”
Visiting the ACALA office and spaces at the People’s Place Library, posters honouring ACALA alumni are prominently visible around their section.
It’s a new initiative and one MacDonald noted is the brainchild of staff members Kathryn Collicott and Lindsay Chisholm.
“They spearheaded and did all the work on that project,” she said, adding the profiles are added to the organization’s Facebook page as well.
Facebook is one of the best places to keep up-to-date with ACALA programming and other activities, as well as their website – acalalearn.ca – and dropping in to see staff at the library, or calling (902-863-3060).