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Global literacy group to be based in Syracuse's Westside

A global non-profit organization that advances the cause of adult literacy has moved its headquarters to a part of Syracuse that needs it.What was once a dilapidated former factory in Syracuse is now the home of ProLiteracy. The non-profit supports more than 1,200 local, national and global members, and serves more than 350,000 adult learners throughout the world.

Its new Syracuse location  sits on the edge of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Years ago, neighbors called the strip of buildings on that end of West Street the "Berlin Wall."  Now, inside what used to be a factory, is a brightly-lit facility that features books and places for teachers to help adults learn the English language.

It is part of Syracuse University's SALT District, and the Near Westside Initiative, that's trying to revitalize the area.  New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales says the two are intertwined.

"The most important anti-poverty effort we can undertake in this state is to teach people to read, to write to communicate.   That I believe, is going to make an enormous difference, when we think about how it is we can improve the economic situation in our state,” he said at the grand opening ceremony.

The Westside Family Resource Center is a neighbor of the new center. Director Mary Alice Smothers hopes its presence can teach residents how important literacy is.

"Understanding that it leads them to employment, questioning and resolving health and legal issues, understanding social issues, financial independence and how it affects their daily lives," said Smothers.

The ProLiteracy program has been a life changer for Syracuse resident Therese Holden.

"I am so happy for how far I got in reading.  Because I couldn't read at first.  And I moved a big stone out my way to be able to do the things I want to for me and my family."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.