Vita Receives Government Grants

Vita has been awarded a $725,406 Adult Basic Education Direct Service grant and a $218,400 Family Literacy Direct Service Grant by the PA Department of Education.
“We are grateful for this continued support from the state,” says Executive Director Mercedes Anderson. “This funding, along with generous gifts from our donors, allows Vita to keep providing free classes to those who seek our help to improve their lives and their families’.”

Celebrating Our Students

On August 20th, students in Vita’s Literacy program gathered with teachers, tutors, staff, board members, and their families to celebrate the hard work they have put in throughout the past year.

“It is never easy to be an adult student,” noted Program Director Kathy White. “You have jobs, families, stresses, responsibilities.” With these demands, adult students often struggle to find the time to study, let alone the energy. Kathy pointed out that Vita’s students are a powerful example of perseverance. Most are not native English speakers, and all of them face obstacles in their journey, but they don’t let that stop them. “This is what it’s all about,” said High School Equivalency teacher Paul Connolly, “…everyone here is persistent and motivated.”

That understanding was also found in the words of the students themselves. When asked what advice she would give to others in her position, student Dominique Collette wrote, “Do not feel discouraged, passing your GED will take time…Take the time to study and review, it really helps in the long run.”

A powerful example of perseverance came from Jessica Cagnetti, who shared her story. Her mother, anticipating her graduation from high school, had bought her a class ring to celebrate. However, Jessica dropped out before she finished. She put the ring away in her jewelry box, where it stayed as a symbol of a decision she would long regret. Now, however, that has changed. This year, after long effort and several attempts, Jessica passed all of her High School Equivalency tests. At the celebration, her mother and fiancée watched proudly as she stood in front of the group and finally put on the ring her mother had given her years ago, knowing that she had earned it.

It is these moments that make working at Vita special. What makes education so important is that it gives people like Jessica the power to transform their own lives, pursue their dreams, and become who and what they want to be.

To those who have not yet achieved their goals, whatever they may be, we say: persevere. We believe in you, and we will be here to help you learn.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Over 50 students, tutors, teachers, staff, and Board members attended Vita’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) program end-of-year celebration on July 22.  This year’s event, held via Zoom,  celebrated the accomplishments of students in reading, math and High School Equivalency (HSE)  preparation classes – supported by their teachers, and volunteer tutors and classroom aides.  The theme this year of the annual event was “Resilience in the Face of Adversity” in recognition of how students, teachers, tutors, and staff have risen to the challenges of working, sharing, and learning remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.

The program included video presentations, student speeches, and recognition of the accomplishments of students, including earning HSE diplomas, achieving U.S. citizenship, and making educational gains to move forward with their postsecondary and career goals. Tutors and classroom aides were recognized for their many hours of services, which this year included adapting to many new technologies and remote learning curriculum.

Following is a video presentation from the celebration, made by Vita’s teacher and students in a HSE for English Language Learners class.


Vita Receives Grant from Brook J. Lenfest Foundation

Vita has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Brook J. Lenfest Foundation for general operating support.

The Brook J. Lenfest Foundation is a charitable foundation established by Brook J. Lenfest in 2000. It is dedicated to making people aware of positive life choices and providing support and opportunities for those motivated to pursue them. Its grants focus mainly on education, job training and mentoring programs. The Philadelphia Foundation provides administrative and management support services for the Brook J. Lenfest Doundation.

“We greatly appreciate the support of the Brook J. Lenfest Foundation in helping Bucks County residents improve literacy and life skills to achieve their goals, and helping Vita to continue to provide these kinds of transformative educational opportunities,” said Mercedes Anderson, Vita’s Executive Director.

A Million Thanks to Our Valued Volunteers

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

A huge THANK YOU – from Vita Board, staff,  and students – to our valued volunteer tutors!

National Volunteer Week is about taking action, encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change—discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to foster positive transformation. Our volunteers are certainly demonstrating this power and we thank them for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to making a real difference in the lives of our students.

Due to COVID protocols, Vita staff is continuing to work from home for the most part, with the focus of continuing classes and tutoring groups through online learning. ESL and Literacy tutors have risen to the challenge and are also working with their students remotely. These tutors have learned new technologies and are continuing in a program that is now very different from the one they signed up for. Vita’s tutor coordinators have worked hard to develop new lesson plans to support this online learning and provide both technical and educational support to tutors.

Our volunteer classroom aides work with our professional teaching staff by providing additional support for individuals within the classroom. Currently this is primarily being done in breakout rooms during Zoom online classes. Unfortunately, Decisions and literacy tutoring in the Bucks County Correctional Facility are currently on hold, since no educational programs are permitted at this time.

We look forward to the resumption of all of our programs and in-person instruction as we continue to navigate changing conditions and protocols. Our volunteer tutors and aides will continue to be an important part of all of our programs.

Vita Receives Second COVID Relief Grant

March 26, 2021 – Vita is honored to share that we have received a second grant from the Bucks County COVID-19 Recovery Fund. The fund was established by United Way of Bucks County, with additional funding from Penn Community Bank. The Recovery Fund is providing financial assistance to nonprofits like ours to help us continue to serve our community through these challenging times.
The funding is being used to buy laptops for teachers, web-browser based devices for students, and to help with the cost of classes being conducted virtually.
Thank you to all the contributors for your support.

Lifelong Learning – for Teachers

With the goal of raising math achievement for our adult learners, Vita’s math teachers are participating in professional development through Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Adult Numeracy Institute (ANI) Statewide Virtual Professional Learning Community.

This year, Vita’s teachers are paired with a group from central Pa. They alternate developing and critiquing lessons about particular math concepts. So far, Vita has developed a geometry lesson and the partner group designed a decimal/percent lesson. Next up is a data/statistics lesson. The totality of the lessons that are developed by the ANI teams statewide are shared amongst all participants and are then filed to become a resource for teachers.

This professional development is a continuation of the ANI project that has been going on for a few years across the state, developed by the US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) Division of Adult Education and Literacy.

OVAE is committed to raising math achievement for adult learners through the rigor and quality of instruction. A strong mathematics foundation is critical; many adults need to build their math skills to succeed in the workforce, advance careers, and participate fully as citizens. This initiative is an important component of Vita’s professional development focus on teacher effectiveness to increase student outcomes.

Vita Receives COVID Recovery Funding

Vita is honored to share that we have received a grant from the Bucks County COVID-19 Recovery Fund. The fund was established by United Way of Bucks County, with additional funding from Penn Community Bank. The Recovery Fund is providing financial assistance to nonprofits like ours to help us continue to serve our community through these challenging times.

The funding is being used to help cover the cost of equipping staff, teachers, and volunteers with the technology they need to teach classes, support instruction, maintain records, and stay in touch with students while classes are being conducted virtually.

Thank you to all the contributors for your support.

COVID-19 Safety Plan

Vita has formulated a plan to resume in-person operations as allowable under orders of the Governor of Pennsylvania and with guidance from PA Department of Education, the Center for Disease and Prevention, and the Bucks County Health Department.

Vita COVID-19 Safety-Plan

Grant Supports Online Learning

Vita has been awarded a $7,000 grant from the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority under the COVID-19 Emergency Non-profit Relief Program (ENRP) to support Vita’s vital services to combat the negative effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

This grant will help Vita provide online delivery of instruction and educational support services to its English as a Second Language (ESL), basic literacy, and GED students as Vita staff, teachers, tutors, and students rise to the challenges of working, sharing, and learning from home during the COVID-19 crisis.

Vita has a 49-year history of working in the criminal justice system and the community in Bucks County. In that time, thousands of men, women, and at-risk youth have benefitted from Vita’s educational programs. Vita provides literacy, ESL, decision-making, and work preparation classes, taught by both professional staff and trained volunteer tutors. Today, Vita is the lead literacy agency in the county and the largest provider of educational services in the Bucks County Correctional facilities.