Grace Clouse, who served as executive director of Joplin Neighborhood Adult Literacy Action for four years, will pass the torch to new director Jessica Pommert.

The organization’s board of directors this week announced Pommert as its new director. Clouse, who was hired for the role in July 2018 and is moving to Springfield, said she was looking forward to seeing Pommert in the role and helped her through the transition.

Clouse’s last official day is Friday, August 19.

“It’s a very rewarding position, and the hardest part of leaving NALA is leaving the students because I feel like I’ve genuinely made friendships and relationships with them,” Clouse said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of their lives, and when you hear about their successes, some of them can move you to tears.”

Pommert has experience in industry customer service and development work with a local non-profit organization. She graduated from Ozark Christian College with a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry and also took education classes at Missouri Southern State University. As CEO, she will oversee NALA’s operations.

“The entire NALA Board of Directors would like to publicly thank Grace Clouse for her years of service to NALA and her advocacy for literacy in the Joplin area,” said Christian Shultz, Chairman of the Board of NALA. administration of NALA, in a press release. “We will miss her very much. But while we are sad to see Grace go, we are excited to see how the next chapter of NALA will unfold with Jessica Pommert as the new Executive Director.

Joplin Neighborhood Adult Literacy Action, also known as Joplin NALA Read, is a nonprofit literacy organization located at 123 S. Main St. that teaches adults how to improve their reading, math, or English. Joplin NALA’s mission is to provide tuition-free programs to empower families by supporting adult learners in their efforts to increase their skills, giving them access to a better life.

NALA has been established in the Joplin community for over 40 years and celebrated this milestone last September.

“It was a lot of fun to be part of the 40th anniversary,” Clouse said. “We had tons of photos, documents and tapes of NALA memorabilia, and it was good to go through them. We had them there on our anniversary. It was also very humbling to see how NALA has served the community and to know that I have been able to be a part of it.

Under Clouse’s leadership, Joplin NALA began offering an introductory computer program in July 2019, followed by the opening later that fall of a computer lab with more than a dozen computers. Area businesses and sponsors have donated technology and time to enable students to access digital resources.

“Computer literacy and access to digital programs are very important these days. To apply for a job, you have to do it online,” Clouse said. “Everything you do, you need a computer these days. When a person is struggling with literacy, they’re probably also struggling with computer literacy or digital literacy. There are a few studies that show that if you have lower literacy levels and use a computer, those are even more embarrassed because it’s almost like another language Being able to offer this service in the community is so important for growth and to close that gap for people of all age groups.I’m really proud of our computer literacy program and the creation of our computer lab.

Clouse also helped launch a new annual event called Literacy Liftoff. This year’s event is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 8 at Missouri Southern football grounds. It includes food trucks, a hot air balloon, community resources and children’s activities, and it serves as the main fundraiser for Joplin NALA Read.

“With Literacy Liftoff, it involves the whole community, and it was perfect to kick it off as a new tradition for the 40th anniversary,” Clouse said. “I can’t wait to see how it grows, even though I’m not the director. I will be back for this event and probably for years to come as well.

Clouse said that while she is moving to Springfield, she has no plans to completely walk away from Joplin NALA Read or her mission to expand literacy in the Joplin area.

“My family is here and my heart is here, so I’ll be back regularly,” she said.

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