Graphic courtesy Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy.

Social & Scientific Systems took home the Honeycomb trophy for the second year in a row in the fourth Grown-Up Spelling Bee from the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy.

The annual event, held last night in Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center, is the primary fundraiser for the group, said Executive Director Kathy Stevens.

“It’s modeled after some other literacy organizations around the country,” she said. “It’s mission aligned in that we know that English is a very hard language in many respects, spelling being one of them. One of the small goals is to highlight the challenges of learning English and knowing English, even for those of us who know it.”

The original coalition, known as the Montgomery Coalition for Adult Literacy and ESOL, formed in 2005 following a county study of existing adult English as a Second Language programs. It grew out of a follow-up task force led by then-Councilmember Tom Perez. The Montgomery College Foundation was the fiscal agent at the time.

The coalition changed its name to MCAEL in the fall of 2006 and became independent of the college in June 2007. Stevens, an East Silver Spring resident, became executive director in 2012.

“Our primary audience, in terms of the coalition, are all of the programs around the county that provide adult English classes,” she said. “An equally important audience is about 800 instructors that work for them or volunteer for them.

“We really provide free training, resources, materials and networking opportunities because the goal in all this is to have a really strong system that produces learning gains for the adult learners,” she continued.

The organization’s budget is about $1.5 million, Stevens said. Of that, the coalition distributes slightly more than $1 million from the county in the form of grants to about 20 programs.

Stevens said she hoped to net between $20,000 and $30,000 from the spelling bee. Organizations that contributed at least $2,500 or more were eligible to enter a three-person team. In addition to Social & Scientific Systems, Adventist HealthCare Inc., Burness Communications, Bethesda Magazine, Montgomery College and Signal Financial Federal Credit Union (the runner up this year) entered teams.

There were the other levels of sponsorships available, including “buying” an individual letter.

The support is important because need is there; MCAEL lately has seen an increase in the number of people wanting to take English classes.

“The coalition serves about 15,000 adult learners each year,” Stevens said. “There’s somewhere above 100,000 people identified on the census as having limited English skills. We have a gap to close, so we’re looking to be innovative and thoughtful about how we close that gap and provide more classes across the county.”

Winners

The team from Social & Scientific Systems celebrates its win in the Grown-up Spelling Bee. Photo by Mike Diegel.