Kate Wallace Champions Childhood Literacy Throughout Florida
In 11 years and three Junior Leagues, Kate Wallace, Sr. Manager, State Government Affairs at Charter Communications, has been driven by one overarching mission: to boost child literacy. Each of the Leagues she has been a Member of devotes time and resources to promoting the importance of reading to young children and their parents. Now an active Member of the Junior League of Greater Lakeland in Florida, Wallace is adamant that the best way to combat students dropping out of high school, experiencing poverty in adulthood and entering into a cycle of generational poverty is to get them reading at grade level by third grade.
“Third grade is a time when students transition from learning how to read to reading in order to learn,” says Wallace. “The moment a struggling reader is socially promoted to fourth grade is when the journey to fall behind accelerates for millions of otherwise bright and capable students. The best way to combat this, in my opinion, has always been to move the meter on this key indicator, and Leagues across the country are doing a fantastic job in this regard.”
In addition to this work, through Junior League-aligned initiatives, Wallace has improved her community by tutoring at-risk students, advocating for State Public Affairs Committees priorities in the halls of government, spreading the word about Junior League causes on social media, helping her League tell compelling stories to drive fundraising, and educating fellow Members on how local and state government impacts their lives.
The Junior League has also connected Wallace with other organizations, including those that have led her to sponsor children and families with gifts, clothes, and other necessities for the holidays. While she recognizes that sponsoring families once a year doesn’t solve long-term problems, Wallace hopes she can meet short-term needs of children and remove one of many burdens shouldered by parents in generational poverty.
It was a fellow Junior League member who led Wallace to the life-changing career opportunity that helped her discover her passion for K-12 education reform. Unbeknownst to this member, on the day she gave Wallace’s name to a national education foundation looking to hire more staff, Wallace was laid off from her job. Not only did Wallace never miss a paycheck, she served in a role that afforded her the opportunity to interface with state legislative and executive staff while advocating for student-centered K-12 education reform.
“My experience in the job impressed upon me that access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our time, and it's a cause I'm committed to advocating for as long as I am alive,” Wallace says. “Without that unprompted referral by a fellow League Member, it is likely I would have never discovered this passion or enjoyed all the personal, civic and professional opportunities that have followed me since. If I have not already, I hope to pay that generosity forward to fellow League Members.”