Literacy First (formerly ACE) is so grateful to count Benchmark Bank among our corporate supporters for the past three years, especially as a founding supporter of our Study Social event. That includes our recent event on August 26, which raised over $20,000 for our tutoring program! This year we had two Benchmark Bank employees, Claire Wiygul and Katie Birge, serving on our Study Social Committee. These two talented ladies worked hard for months to make sure that the event was a resounding success.
How did you, personally, first hear about Literacy First?
Claire Wiygul: I moved from Mississippi to Austin last year to take a job as a Personal Banker at Benchmark Bank. I knew once I moved that I wanted to get involved in the community, so I talked to one of my supervisors, and I decided to get involved in a nonprofit that benefits children. She used to serve on the Advisory Board of Literacy First and told me all about its mission.
Katie Birge: The first time I heard about Literacy First was about three years ago, when I attended their fundraising event as a guest. I learned how important this organization is, and the enormous positive impact it has on childhood education. When I started working at Benchmark Bank I was given the opportunity to volunteer for Literacy First, and was very excited to be more directly involved with the program!
Why do you think that early literacy is important?
Claire: Because strong reading skills form the basis of learning in all subjects throughout one’s entire education and life. Early literacy is also linked to self-confidence and self-esteem, which is extremely important.
Katie: It sets the foundation for the child’s future. Literacy gives these children the tools to enjoy learning, and lays the groundwork for them to find success through education throughout the rest of their lives.
What inspired you to join the Study Social committee? What has the experience been like for you?
Katie: Having been to a Literacy First event before and learning about all the great things that they do for Austin, I was very excited to be able to be a part of the Literacy First community. Realizing that we need both the monetary side and the hands-on side of support, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved with an amazing organization.
Claire: I wanted to join Literacy First because of its mission. Prior to being accepted to Kindergarten, I had to take a reading assessment test and I didn’t do very well. My parents panicked, hired a tutor, and bought every computer game in sight. I was fortunate to have parents who were financially able to provide me with everything I needed to get ready for Kindergarten. However, there are children in our community who aren’t as fortunate. I can relate to falling behind and then having someone stand by me, encourage me, and help me learn. This is what the Literacy First program is all about—helping children become successful readers and setting them on a path of excellence in school and in life. The committee members get along so well, and we’ve all helped each other along the way. I’ve really enjoyed serving on the Study Social committee, especially right after moving 11 hours away from home [to come to Austin], because I immediately felt a part of something that’s so much bigger than myself.
Why did Benchmark Bank decide that Literacy First would be a good community partner?
Claire: It was and is easy to support Literacy First. One of our former employees served on the Literacy First Advisory Board alongside a great customer of ours. A frontline employee had already chaired a committee for a fundraising and awareness event targeting millennials [the Study Social]…and the event was very successful.
Katie: And now we’re showing our support in Year 3 with new employees, myself and Claire, involved in and excited about Literacy First.
What benefit does Benchmark see in sponsoring the Study Social event?
Katie: The event targets the same demographic as our employees, and that makes it fun for them to get behind. Through our support we’re providing an avenue for our employees to volunteer, get involved, have fun, and make a difference.
Why should other Austin companies support Literacy First?
Claire: For us, it’s a perfect partnership. We dig the mission, and our employees have something they are excited to get behind.