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Project Read Executive Director Shauna Brown celebrates 15 years of changing lives through literacy

Mar 03, 2016 10:00AM

By Megan Speer

On March 1, Utah County’s adult literacy program Project Read celebrated Shauna Brown’s 15th anniversary as executive director. Project Read offers one-on-one tutoring and changes lives through literacy by empowering individuals, strengthening families and building community. Through Brown’s leadership during the past 15 years, Project Read has experienced much growth and success in its efforts to eradicate adult illiteracy in Utah County.

Brown’s career at Project Read began in 2001 shortly after she graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. Though she started out as a volunteer tutor, within one year she was invited to apply for the executive director position. As she and her husband already had plans to move to Taiwan, Brown declined. But when their plans changed, she knew Project Read was where she needed to be, and so she applied.

“That job interview was the most intimidating job interview I’ve ever had,” Brown said of facing the Provo Library Board of Directors. It had been months since the initial invitation to apply, but the board kept the application open hoping to find just the right candidate. Shauna Brown was their woman.

Many warned Brown that the first year of nonprofit work would be the most difficult, and this proved to be true. In her first month alone, Project Read moved to a new location, Brown and her husband moved to a new home, and Project Read was sued by a student who claimed a volunteer tutor had stolen from her. The item was found and the charges dropped, but Brown claims it was one of the most important leadership lessons she ever learned. “The culture of Project Read reflects my own character, so being open and transparent is crucial,” she said. “You have to have good policies and account for the unexpected.”

Undaunted by her first year, Brown has continued working tirelessly to end adult illiteracy in Utah County. Through her efforts, Project Read has grown in size and impact. In the past five years alone, Project Read has served 498 students and affected more than 1,000 family members with 288 students having entered, improved or retained employment.

For the next 15 years, Brown hopes to expand the capacity of Project Read to support more adult learners. Brown wants to become even more proactive and involved in the community, reaching more of the local businesses, as well as participating in national conferences and helping to spread the word about Project Read. “We live in an educated community and people don’t realize that adult illiteracy is a problem. I want Project Read to become a household name where everyone knows to go for literacy help,” she said.