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Brophy Alum is Out to Prove Literacy Changes Lives (azcentral)

Literacy skills can change lives. This Phoenix resident is out to prove that

Jesús Love '82 was featured on azcentral on April 7, 2024. He is the executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, an Arizona Department of Education/Adult Education Services program that provides Adult Basic and Secondary Education and English for Speakers of Other Languages. Read the azcentral story on how, having grown up with a sense of volunteerism and community service, this Bronco alum is giving back through English literacy, giving students self-confidence to achieve higher education and better employment opportunities.

Jesús Love is someone who gets recognized often at the supermarket. His two young adult sons tease him endlessly for it, but Love is eager to learn about his neighbors. He asks about their careers, families and goals in an attempt to cement their name and face in his memory.

Love, the executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, said he is not shy to introduce himself.

"I'm most likely in addition to tell you my name, probably tell you what I do," Love said. "I will ask if you know somebody that can benefit from our service. Not so much because we want numbers but because we have the capacity to make a greater impact in our society."

Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, a community-based non-profit organization committed to promoting adult literacy in Phoenix, serves more than 1,000 students every year in two literacy programs: English for speakers of other languages and adult basic education.

The organization serves any student 16 and older in learning centers in Sunnyslope and central Phoenix for free. They are supported by partners and donors, accepting donations and volunteers throughout the year.
Since Love became the executive director after serving on the board for many years, many changes have been made to the program. Most notably, the expansion of their facilities and resources with a simple question: "Hey, can I tear this wall down?"

Love's commitment to his students stems from the same dreams he has for his sons: to be able to fully participate in society.

"Not because I'm their father, but they're smart, they're talented. So, I encourage them to fulfill their potential as opposed to just settle," Love said.

'To whom much is given, much is expected'

Love was born and raised in Mexico but considers Arizona home. He graduated from Brophy College Preparatory before attending Georgetown University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in government and economics. He said the opportunity to achieve higher education was a driving factor in his involvement in Literacy Volunteers.

"I'm a firm believer of the old saying of 'to whom much is given, much is expected,'" Love said. "I was very fortunate in my upbringing, and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend great schools and get a good education."

Love grew up with a sense of volunteerism instilled in him by his parents. He has always been involved in his church, his kids' school and his community. When Love served as the vice president and branch manager of U.S. Bank for 12 years, he said the president would refer to their position as "servant leaders" with their sole purpose being to serve the people.

"We would make people's dreams by providing business financing, by providing loans to buy a house, by helping them grow their assets. To a degree that was true, but that doesn't compare in any way with what I do now," he said.

Now, he refers to himself as "provider-in-chief" with intentions of not only serving his students but also the staff and instructors who run the programs. His administrative position allows him to provide his team the tools to deliver instruction effectively and efficiently, growing the number of clients they can help achieve academic and career goals.

Literacy, soft skills and the GED

The English learning class is geared toward immigrants and refugees who may be proficient in their native language but struggle to communicate in English. Along with language learning, students also delve into civics and citizenship.

"I would argue that reading, writing and speaking the English language for refugees is a basic necessity." Love said. "Maybe not at the most pressing and immediate level but it is a basic necessity."

Love said educating English literacy gives people self-confidence and better employment opportunities. The group's facility has career services to teach soft skills like punctuality and dress code — skills that people who grew up in U.S. society may take for granted. Love said these skills also allow those with children to participate in the education and lives of their kids.

The other course provides students with the knowledge to pass the GED test, which is necessary to obtain a High School Equivalency diploma. Hanging proudly on the wall of their facility is a collection of photos of former students holding their diplomas.

Over more than 30 years, Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County has helped more than 500 students obtain their diploma, but not every student follows a linear trajectory. With other commitments such as work and family, the organization works with each student individually to find a learning plan that works for them.

Hiram Ramos is the Sunnyslope location's learning center supervisor. He has been with the organization for more than 15 years, working alongside students to guide them toward their goals.

"One of the students right now, he can't attend any of the classes because of his work schedule. So, he's working on the software and taking the assessments," Ramos said. "He texted me on Saturday, and he passed two more (of the GED assessments)."

'It is better to be doing something than nothing'

Both Love and Ramos said the pandemic forced the organization to offer their service in a new way. Wanting to minimize the time their facility was shut down, their team decided it was time to reinvent their teaching practices.