Project Literacy

Three adults dressed in black graduation caps and gowns prepare to move their tassles. A Latina woman gazes directly into camera, standing next to a White woman and an older Black man.
Project Literacy Graduation 2018 held at HCLS Miller Branch.

by Ben H.

I work at HCLS Project Literacy. Project Literacy provides Howard County residents from around the globe with the opportunity to practice the thing that they all have in common: English.  

Project Literacy unites people. 

My average workday might involve teaching an English conversation class, managing our program data, helping organize new classes, brainstorming with our awesome staff, (writing a book review for the library’s underrated blog), and sending hundreds of emails.  

Conversation classes always include a lot of laughs, serious talk about cultural differences (especially at the workplace), vocabulary review, and a ton of learning and sharing. 

Tracking, entering, and analyzing data isn’t as bad as it sounds. Now that we work from home, I can enter data with my music of choice and my 15-month-old daughter tottering and warbling behind me. I’ve worked at Project Literacy for four years as the assistant manager and manager of information systems. 

I love it. 

You might cynically think, “he has to write that because this is a library blog,” but you should just trust me when I say I love my job (I am under no duress as I sit here on my couch).  

What does Project Literacy do?  

For starters, we offer one-on-one tutorial sessions for anyone interested in learning English, studying for citizenship, or studying for a high school diploma. We’ve offered tutorial sessions for more than 30 years. During the past 20 years, we’ve used funding from grants to expand our programing. 

Project Literacy now offers four semesters of classes each year. With 30+ classes to choose from, there is something for every step of your English-learning journey. Beginning level ESL classes might focus on numbers, days of the week, or common phrases. While advanced ESL offerings include classes on essay writing, pronunciation, literature, and work communication skills. 

As of this fiscal year, Project Literacy is now a proud home of the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). Through the NEDP, clients who have not received a U.S. high school diploma can earn one. It is a self-paced program that someone can do almost entirely online. We help them study for the entrance tests and coach them through the modules.  

Career Pathways for Skilled Immigrants is another grant-funded program that Project Literacy has recently developed. It exists to help skilled immigrants obtain employment in their field of expertise. The program is highly individualized and tailored to fit each participant’s needs.  

Project Literacy has a core of about 20-30 paid teachers and staff. In a normal year, Project Literacy is lucky enough to have about 40-50 volunteers, but the pandemic significantly reduced our volunteer base. We look forward to welcoming our volunteers back when things return to something like normal. 

350-450 students pass through our doors every year. We currently have around 40 students in our NEDP program, 40 students in our skilled immigrant program, and about 220 in our ESL program. Participants come from the United States and about 50 other countries.  

Every person has a unique story, and it is my great privilege to assist them in one phase of their journey. 

Project Literacy is an international community of learners and full of very cool people. Emma Ostendorp is one of the coolest. She is the program administrator and responsible for making Project Literacy the thriving community it is. She’s also a great boss (still under no duress).  

If I’ve convinced you to become a part of Project Literacy, fantastic! 

Project Literacy always needs volunteers and always wants students. If you would like to become either, please email  

Thank you for your time.  

Ben Hamilton works at Project Literacy, Howard County Library’s adult basic education initiative, based at HCLS Central Branch. He loves reading, writing, walking, and talking (all the basics).

3 thoughts on “Project Literacy

  1. Project Literacy is an amazing community asset. Thank you for this informative post . I did not realize there were so many options nor how many people were included.
    Share more stories!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Benjamin,
    You wrote whole thing in a fantastic and way of writing is so much convincing. I completely agree with you on Project Literacy provides many opportunities for immigrants with different classes.
    Excellent teachers like Emma, you, Ms. Jovita and many more are fulfilling so many students requirements. You all are very knowledgeable and friendly by nature.
    Thank you Project Literacy.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s