As a dynamic leader and host of Council events, Alicia Stephens strives to make sure all who want to improve their literacy skills have the opportunity.
Alicia Stephens already had a full plate as a mom and wife, church volunteer, OLC board member, and executive at Comerica Bank, but when asked to lead OLC’s newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee last summer, she believed it was a cause deserving of her time.
“Diversity is a differentiator of success,” Alicia says. “The more variation you have, the better chance you have of being able to put together a strategy or solution that’s going to lead to more positive outcomes.”
Positive outcomes is what this dynamic advocate leader is all about. “Wherever I go, I want to bring a positive spirit and energy to the room,” Alicia says, “There are only so many hours in the day, and if you’re going to dedicate yourself and invest in something, you should always put your best foot forward and be an enabler of positive results.”
Alicia first got involved with OLC just over two years ago while seeking opportunities to leverage her professional skills to serve the community. A passionate reader since childhood, she was immediately drawn to the mission of OLC. Her interest grew as she learned more about the organization. “Books and education open the world to you,” she remarks.
“To lift the adult literacy level in Oakland County, we have to understand what are the drivers for inequalities.”
Early in her career, Alicia worked at a bank branch and recalls interacting with some customers who struggled with low literacy. “They were unable to fill out a deposit or withdrawal slip,” she recalls, “and some customers weren’t able to sign their names.”
As DEI Chairperson, Alicia is excited to help OLC always “interact in a way that communicates that all are welcome,” she says. The Committee is already making progress toward its initial goals of increasing diversity among board membership, selecting materials and resources for learners that reflect the varied cultures of our learners, and educating tutors about diversity and inclusion.
Alicia is also enthusiastic about OLC’s desire to explore historical and systemic sources of inequity in education and literacy. “To lift the adult literacy level in Oakland County, we have to understand what are the drivers for inequalities,” she states, referencing economic, gender, racial, and other influences.
Along with broadening diversity, Alicia reports that the Board recognizes growth as the Council’s most pressing current opportunity. Virtual tutoring has been well received and widened the pool of volunteer tutors beyond southeastern Michigan, communities are seeking to bridge inequitable educational gaps, and the Board is looking at ways to elevate fundraising to support the growing demand for literacy support.
“The Oakland Literacy Council has been around for decades. The Board wants to make sure that it’s around for decades to come,” Alicia shares, “and that means always keeping our eye on not just today but tomorrow.”