Service Year Alliance is proud to celebrate the incredible Mary Ellen Isaacs, the brainchild of AmeriCorps Central Texas, the Service Year Alliance Central Texas Impact Community. For the last twenty years, Mary Ellen has been serving as the Executive Director of Literacy First, setting early elementary students up for success. With her retirement this month, we reached out to AmeriCorps programs in Austin to get a better sense of the impact she’s made and how she made this nationally-recognized model come to life.
In 2015, Mary Ellen reached out to other AmeriCorps grantees in Austin hoping that deeper collaboration would help them better support current members and expand their reach to more local talent. It all started with the idea that when AmeriCorps staff come together and explore what is possible, there will be better outcomes across corps members, staff, and the community. Mary Ellen was the catalyst and the sustained energy behind the collective work. She has continued to be instrumental in supporting the now ten programs, from seeking funding for the collaborative, leading strategic planning to support the work over time, and solving national service’s most significant barriers.
Amanda Miller, an AmeriCorps alum who joined Literacy First’s staff and is now on staff at Communities In Schools of Central Texas, reflects on Ellen’s retirement, “she created meaningful, intentional opportunities for everyone to come together and hash out what the real challenges were and what steps we needed to take to meet these challenges head-on.”
Cristina Flores, another local AmeriCorps alum who was on staff at Literacy First and is now at the New Politics Leadership Academy, adds, “Because of her dedication to come together, Austin is better positioned to address the community more holistically.”
Mary Ellen has brought insight, energy, and compassion to the work and whoever the work impacts. “No one sees her coming, yet no one forgets the imprint she makes from every interaction,” says Meg Poag, a former Executive Director of the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas.
Amanda Miller adds, “I can only hope to continue Mary Ellen’s legacy through intentional, collective action work to center the needs of our children and families here in Central Texas.”
Her leadership will greatly be missed, but the legacy she has built will continue to impact the lives of tens of thousands of students, staff, and the Central Texas community for years and years to come. Suki Steinhauser, Executive Director of Communities in Schools shares, “we will be indebted to her for a long time to come!”
Thank you, Mary Ellen, for your service!