Kat Williams’ passion for education is unparalleled. She is the Night Manager at Lift, an organization focused on adult literacy in Dallas. Currently, 1 in 5 adults in Dallas cannot read.
Here’s a little summary of our conversation…
Dallas Heroes Project: When did you start working with Lift?
Kat Williams: This summer it will be 7 years.
DHP: What do you think prepared you for this role?
KW: I love adult education. I taught refugees when I worked at Catholic Charities, I taught ESL classes to adults in DISD. I found that working with adults is my nitch. I have a background in education and good communication skills. I love meeting people and working with them to better themselves.
DHP: We heard you also work at Half Price Books (also headquartered in Dallas)?
KW: Yes, I’m the Accounts Receivable Manager and have been at Texas Bookman (the wholesale division of HPB) for 29 years.
DHP: Wow, and you’re also the Night Manager at Lift?
KW: Yes, I’m at Lift 4 nights a week from 5-9 pm.
DHP: How did you hear about Lift?
KW: A colleague at Half Price supported Lift for many years and was on the board. He told me to call Lift, and after a few days, I was called in and was asked to be the Learning Center Manager.
DHP: How does Half Price Books support your work at Lift?
KW: HPB has 2 missions: promote literacy and be kind to the environment. They have been supporting Lift financially for many years. They have a table at the annual gala, a Toast to Literacy, and the president comes. They take interest in what is happening at Lift and are impressed that I work here.
DHP: What’s the hardest part of your job?
KW: It’s hard when I see some students stop coming. Retention is an issue because our students are adults – they have kids, or are taking care of other family members. We try to call, figure out what’s going on. I ask them about things outside of Lift (without being nosy) like what happened at their kid’s game, not just about a math problem. They ask me if I need help, like when I had car trouble. We develop friendships here. When I see that a student sees someone cares that he or she is reading better, that is the true reward. When I’ve had a long day and I’m tired, seeing the teachers, staff, and students just changes my whole attitude.
DHP: Why do you think Dallas has a high illiteracy rate? 1 out of 5
KW: Everyone doesn’t have the same start early in life. Some of our students have large families and have to work and help out at home instead of going to school. Some of students had learning disabilities and both the parents and kids got frustrated and dropped out. At Lift we are working to “Bend the Trend” so people can increase their reading levels, get a GED, and get a better job. Literacy not only affects individuals but our whole society and economy.
DHP: Where could Lift use the most help?
KW: We always need volunteers to teach, for admin support, and to help to get the word out. Donations are also great since dollars are needed to maintain the building, staff, and programming.
DHP: How do students find out about Lift?
KW: It’s mostly through word of mouth – usually through a friend, or former student, and sometimes through walk ins. We are located on the CitySquare campus so they will have job fairs here, sometimes Church is held outdoors here on a Saturday, so we are in a great location.
DHP: What’s your message to Dallasites who are thinking about volunteering with Lift?
KW: I think Dallas is a great place. Dallasites needs to be cognizant of the fact that everyone does not start at the same level. Everybody deserves to start with an equal playing ground. Everyone needs help along the way. Then what you do with that is up to you. Being able to read better equips a person to be more independent, more well rounded, more of a part of a whole of their surrounding environment – to be better connected to our evolving world.
Giving your time is a great way to give back. You’ll not only be teaching, reading, you will be changing lives. Dallas is a very giving city, so keep giving.