PLATTSBURGH - The North Country is coming down with March Madness, but it's not from college basketball.
Champlain Centre will host a fierce competition next Saturday, March 7, as more than 20 teams square off against one another in the 2009 Literacy Challenge, hosted by Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County. The annual event will celebrate its 17th year of bringing community awareness to the issue of low-literacy while raising money for the nonprofit organization.
Norma V. Menard, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County, said the challenge is the organization's primary fundraiser, having raised $7,000 last year. The key, she said, has been involving key people of the community, including businesspeople, educators and members of social organization to attract attention to the LVCC mission.
"Just having them involved really brings out the word about our program," said Menard.
According to the figures provided by Menard from the National Assessment on Adult Literacy, 13 percent of Clinton County adults - approximately 8,100 people - lack basic prose literacy skills. That figure, she said, underscores the importance of the LVCC's free one-on-one tutoring program, which has helped hundreds to improve their reading, writing and English-speaking skills.
"It has helped adults help their children with homework, find employment, get their [general education diploma], achieve citizenship, and go on to college," she said.
Louise Murtagh, a resident of Rouses Point who is originally from Canada, appreciates the LVCC and its mission. Murtagh, who has a noticeable French-Canadian accent, understands what it's like for those adapting to American culture and the importance of having organizations like the LVCC at their disposal.
"Literacy Volunteers is important as much for foreigners such as myself or for people of different circumstances that find themselves struggling with English," she said.
Murtagh believes so much in the LVCC mission she has coordinated the team for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals for the past four years of the Literacy Challenge. In addition to her own personal convictions, Murtagh said Wyeth's participation demonstrates "good corporate citizenship" it expects of itself.
"Wyeth has a long history of participating in the community and we recognize that importance as a major employer," she said. "[The challenge] is a way to have fun and participate in the community at the same time. I really enjoy it."
The Literacy Challenge, which will begin next Saturday at noon, is a "Jeopardy-style tournament" that will consist of several rounds of questions, said Menard. Categories will include science, social studies, current events, popular culture, literature, sports and music. Competitions will be held simultaneously at four sites within the mall - in front of Best Buy, J.C. Penney, the mall's customer service desk and the main site near Gander Mountain. The winners from each competition will face each other in the quarterfinals later in the afternoon with the final two teams competing in a championship round.
The top two teams will receive trophies and "bragging rights," said Menard.
"It's really exciting," she said.
The cost to register a team of up to four people is a $250 donation, to benefit the LVCC. Though teams are able to register even the day of the event, there is room for a maximum of 32 teams.
Those interested in organizing a team to participate may contact Menard at 564-5332.