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UW LRCC Names 2021 Recipient of Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award

September 30, 2022
Two woman posing with an award
Susan Bednasek, at right, founder and director of the Platte County Early Literacy Project, receives the 2021 Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award from Amy Spiker, former director of UW’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic. (Mark DeLap/Platte County Record-Times Photo)

Susan Bednasek, of Wheatland, founder and director of the Platte County Early Literacy Project (PCELP), is the recipient of the 2021 Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award from the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic (LRCC) Outreach Advisory Board.

She received $4,000 to continue the work of the PCELP and was nominated by Tracy DeRyk, principal at Platte County School District 1’s Peak High School.

A former first grade teacher, Bednasek knows that helping young children prepare for their school careers early in life can help set them up for success. She established the PCELP in 2013 to help families establish good literacy practices at home before the child reaches pre-kindergarten.

The PCELP provides every family whose child is born in Platte County with a basket that includes early-literacy resources, a “Read to Me” onesie and the child’s first book. The child receives another book at six months in addition to a science, technology, engineering, arts and math toy and book at each birthday until the child is 3. These gifts are delivered in person by Bednasek.

The first several years, Bednasek relied on her grant-writing abilities and donations from the community to support the project. She also partnered with the school district, the Wheatland Early Childhood Center, Banner Hospital and Clinics, Platte County Library, Platte County Public Health, local child care centers and the SE Early Childhood BOCES to ensure the project was reaching as many children as possible.

In 2020, Bednasek secured long-term funding for the project by working with the Platte County Commission to pass a property tax levy. Since securing consistent and reliable funding, the project has reached 200 families whose children were born in Platte County. Nearly 90 percent of Wheatland’s future class of 2038 has received books and toys through the project that will support the students’ success in school for many years to come.

“Susan embodies the vision of the LRCC to create and sustain engagement in literacy for the earliest of readers and writers,” says former LRCC Director Amy Spiker. “She has worked for many years to engage children in literacy early and often. Her significant contributions to literacy in her community and in our state are impressive and represent the type of initiatives we want to encourage.”

The Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award is a way to recognize and honor Wyoming citizens, organizations, businesses or communities that have made substantial contributions that enhance the literacy development among the Wyoming community. Formerly known as the First Lady’s Leaders in Literacy Award, the honor was established in 2016 by the LRCC Outreach Advisory Board to recognize the work of Wyoming’s former first lady, Carol Mead, to promote literacy education throughout the state. The award was renamed in 2019 to honor the legacy of the former first lady and her impact on the literacy and education of students in Wyoming.

2022 Nominations Now Open

Recognize a Wyoming leader in literacy by submitting a nomination for the 2022 Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award by Friday, Oct. 21. Any Wyoming citizen, organization, business or community may be nominated for the award.

Accomplishments that are noted should reflect contributions made in Wyoming that exemplify a commitment to the literacy development of Wyoming citizens. Recipients will receive a $4,000 award and a plaque recognizing the honor.

Previous recipients are not eligible for nomination in the following year, but nomination of previously unselected nominees is encouraged. Award recipients are eligible to reapply after a five-year period has passed.

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