Jennifer Nelson '04, changes lives starting with adult literacy

literacy-featureIn the United States, 44 million people are considered illiterate, in Wisconsin the figure is close to a million.

Fortunately, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay alumna Jennifer Nelson is on the job. As the recently appointed executive director of Literacy Green Bay (, she is determined to achieve Literacy Green Bay’s vision of building a community literate in the English language, and at the same time, improving lives and outlooks.

“Literacy is a systemic issue at the root of many social ills,” Nelson says. “Literacy Green Bay’s goals are to develop a stronger public understanding and commitment to adult literacy and lifelong learning.”

Literacy Green Bay, formerly Literacy Council of Brown County, was founded in 1981 as a way for volunteer tutors to help Southeast Asian refugees adjust to their new surroundings and become successful in the Green Bay area. Now the organization has expanded their services to all ethnicities in need of literacy and educational assistance, including English-speaking individuals who are simply undereducated. The program has approximately 300 volunteers assisting over 800 individuals each year.

Nelson has more than 20 years of non-profit experience and has been chosen as one of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s “40 People Under 40 You Should Know” in 2009. She currently serves on the Brown County Planning Commission on Transportation and previously served on the Mayor’s Leadership Council and as Director of Transportation at the American Red Cross, Lakeland Chapter.

Nelson says her education at UW-Green Bay, and specifically within the Social Change and Development, program guided her to expanded thinking.

“The professors were all supportive and personable, but more importantly, they pushed me to always do better, try harder, and reach further,” the 2004 graduate says. “UWGB did not offer an education in merely my specified area of study, but rather served me as a ‘whole’ person.”

Text and photo by Lauren Muench, former intern, Office of Marketing and Communication.

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