The nonprofit has been positively impacting the lives of the community they serve for more than a decade.
This year, Achieve Plant City celebrates 12 years of empowering adults to thrive in the community, and break the cycle of poverty, by providing the most basic of needs: the literacy skills needed to reach their full potential.
Founded by Anjelica Ibarra, Achieve Plant City has grown from its grassroots beginnings to become a positive force for hundreds of families looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
“I had established a family literacy program in the West Tampa area but I had always wanted to bring it to Plant City so in September 2011, we opened here,” said Ibarra, who knows firsthand the impact an education can have in lifting families out of poverty.
Born in Mexico, her family emigrated to the U.S. for work, harvesting onions and watermelon in south Texas before eventually making their way to Plant City. They lived a migrant lifestyle with most of her family, which included ten children, working in the fields, traveling from one state to the next, picking strawberries in Florida, onions in Georgia and the Carolinas and cucumbers in Ohio before returning to Plant City.
“I grew up without any books at home, without even considering reading, there was no value placed on reading or education,” she said. “It was pretty hard to focus on education when you’re just trying to survive.”
She mustered the courage to break the cycle when she was in her 20s, getting a GED, attending Hillsborough Community College and then earning a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of South Florida.
After entering the professional workforce, Ibarra decided to not only make a difference in her own life and the lives of her children but others in the community that needed literacy skills to bridge the gaping chasm between misery and hope.
“Everything we do is about literacy and instilling a love of reading in the adults and children we serve,” she said. “All of our focus is on helping them learn to read.”
Working out of space in the Wesley Center of First United Methodist Church of Plant City, Achieve Plant City offers families access to its program for $65 per semester. This cost includes the adult English classes taught by teachers hired by Hillsborough County Pubic Schools (HCPS), preschool classes for children and tutoring and homework assistance for elementary-aged students two afternoons a week.
Jenny Kime, Family Literacy Coordinator, who taught at HCPS, has been working with the nonprofit sine 2021. “This is the best things ever, a family literacy program is really the way to make a change and move a family to that next income level,” she said. “Here we’re helping adults that can help their kids and that impacts the whole family.”
The organization recently set up a literacy room on the building’s third floor, sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union. Empty shelves quickly filled with books for all ages thanks to generous donations from local residents and businesses.
Longtime Achieve Plant City supporter and State Farm insurance agent Tony Lee, along with his wife, carried boxes overflowing with books, from Harry Potter to the I Survived series to classics like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, into the reading room. “We’ve been supporters of Achieve from day one, we love Anjelica and we want to contribute,” he said. “My ten team members came together and brought lots of books from home.”
Ibarra said donations are always appreciated. “Without the support of the community, the nonprofit couldn’t survive,” she said.
It continues to add additional programming options. It now hosts a family reading night every month, where multigenerational families can gather for reading, activities and treats. It also added Storytime To Go, a project where they bring storytime to different locations throughout Plant City and children leave with a book to take home.
Achieve Plant City is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday 8:30 a.m – 5:30 p.m. It accepts registrations on a rolling basis. “Give us a call, our enrollment policies are flexible, we want to be there for anyone who wants to learn,” said Kime.
For more information about Achieve Plant City, to register for its classes or to find out how to volunteer, visit achieveplantcity.org or call 813-752-4010.