Lori Como to receive PAACE Leader of the Year award

Apr 5, 2024Articles

On April 15, Chief Program Officer Lori Como will be honored as the 2024 Outstanding Leader of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Adult Continuing Education (PAACE) at their annual professional development conference, which is being held in Pittsburgh this year.

For 25 years, Lori has dedicated her life and professional career to improving adult lives through learning. She began her career at Literacy Pittsburgh in 1999 as a community-based coordinator, where she built partnerships with organizations, recruited volunteer tutors, matched those tutors with students, and supported them during their Literacy Pittsburgh experience. She tripled the size of her program area in just two years.  
Lori was promoted to Program Manager in 2001, where she assumed leadership of securing increased public investments, coaching staff, and using data to improve performance. In 2005, Lori was promoted to Program Director, where she assumed greater supervisory responsibilities while accelerating the development of partnerships with employers for workplace classes. She also worked to add case management services for immigrants and refugees and expand citizenship classes.  

In 2014, Lori was named Associate Director. In this role, she not only led the organization's educational programs but also grew each of these programs by emphasizing quality and results and creating opportunities to partner with other organizations to increase impact. In 2019, Lori was appointed Chief Program Officer. Initially responsible for six programs, eight sites, and a team of 35 professional employees, she has led program expansion, resulting in responsibility for 10 programs and nearly 70 employees. 

Lori is, at her core, an educator. Her success at Literacy Pittsburgh is built upon her previous roles as an elementary and middle school teacher and a Sylvan Learning Center director. Lori's background includes brief stints as a banker and a real estate agent. She has combined the core competencies of an educator with the administrative savvy and entrepreneurial spirit from her experiences in banking and real estate. Not surprisingly, Literacy Pittsburgh is viewed as a leader in Pennsylvania's adult education field thanks to Lori's leadership. 

Lori's influences have reached beyond the growing Literacy Pittsburgh footprint; she has demonstrated leadership at the local, state, national, and international levels. Lori has been an integral part of the Pennsylvania Association for Adult and Continuing Education (PAACE), having served on the state board for 13 years and on the executive committee as secretary, vice president, president, and conference chair, a post she held for five years. In her capacity with PAACE, Lori spearheaded the first statewide tutor conference and then worked with Tutors of Literacy in the Commonwealth to make tutor sessions a regular part of the PAACE conference. Lori spearheaded and co-hosted a national tutor conference held in Pittsburgh during the 2014 COABE conference. In addition, Lori has ensured that other Literacy Pittsburgh staff have engaged with PAACE as board members, volunteers, and members. Internationally, she helped bring the Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults (LESLLA) international symposium to Pittsburgh in 2019, and more than 150 adult educators and researchers from all over the world were in attendance.  

A dedicated, tireless, entrepreneurial, and strategic servant leader, Lori's success in the field results from a lot of work, long days and long weeks, and the constant cultivation of new opportunities and new talent. Lori has embraced every challenge and opportunity with a servant mindset, always looking for how she can better serve students, her colleagues, and the field while never asking for recognition or reward. Her leadership is an example to aspiring leaders everywhere. Lori's work embodies the following quote by the Dalai Lama: "Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." Thousands of people's lives have been positively impacted by Lori Como's everyday efforts. 

Literacy Pittsburgh (formerly Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) helps create better lives through learning. Recognized as a national leader in adult and family literacy, Literacy Pittsburgh is the largest provider of adult basic education in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. Last year, Literacy Pittsburgh helped more than 4,000 individuals acquire the skills needed to reach their fullest potential in life and participate productively in their communities. Literacy Pittsburgh provides free, personalized instruction in workforce readiness, high school diploma test preparation, digital literacy, English language learning, math, reading, and family literacy through one-to-one and small class instruction. Founded in 1982, it serves local adults through numerous neighborhood locations and its Downtown Pittsburgh Learning Center.       

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