Bishop E.L. Warren says the goal is far-reaching, but so is the problem it is addressing.
"The purpose of this is to eradicate illiteracy and provide a new place of learning and hope in downtown Quincy," he said.
Warren, who pastors the Cathedral of Worship, 215 N. 25th, and is the head of E.L. Warren Ministries International, said earlier this week that Quincy will be the headquarters of the Vision Literacy Center.
There will be 52 learning centers around the world, one for each area where a church is located that Warren oversees as presiding bishop of International Network of Affiliate Ministries. Most of the churches are in the continental United States, with the rest in the Caribbean and Africa. INAM is part of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, a 6,000-church body spread across six continents that will be holding its world convention in Quincy later this year.
The Vision Literacy Center is a nonprofit undertaking involving the partnership of E.L. Warren Ministries and Applied Scholastics International, which describes itself as a nonprofit, nonreligious organization founded in 1972. ASI materials say it is headquartered in suburban St. Louis with a mission to promote and develop programs of effective education for children and adults alike.
Applied Scholastics is based on the Study Technology program developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, an American fiction and self-help writer who became best-known as the creator of Dianetics and founder of the Church of Scientology.
"This program is not affiliated in any way with the Church of Scientology, none whatsoever," Warren said. "The only connection is the name of L. Ron Hubbard, who developed the study format. What we have is the technology without the theology.
"We will be confronting illiteracy through the use of creative and effective tools, technology, methods and programs. We are not waiting for buildings in all of these areas where we will have centers. We are already training instructors. We are redirecting funds from E.L. Warren Ministries to get this going. Every day we wait, we run the risk of losing another child."
The Vision Literacy Center headquarters will occupy the southeast corner suite on the second floor of the Maine Center at Sixth and Maine. It will include a training area.
Applied Scholastics CEO Bennetta Slaughter was in town to discuss the partnership with E.L. Warren Ministries. She is described as a prominent member of the Church of Scientology and head of several of its organizations, including Applied Scholastics. Slaughter and her husband reportedly have donated more than a quarter-million dollars to the International Association of Scientologists.
She said innovative teaching methods and programs are at the core of the ASI model, which she said is now used by 750 organizations in 65 countries to promote literacy.
"A child knows he's not learning, but not why," Slaughter said. "(Our programs) teach them to recognize their own barriers and how to overcome them."
Slaughter said government studies indicate only 30 percent of U.S. students are on the grade level they should be in reading and math.
"Some schools are as low as 10 percent," Slaughter said.
Warren said the program is in the process of acquiring grants and funding to cover the start-up and operational costs. Corporate sponsorships are also being sought so that ideally any child going through the program will be able to do so for free.
Roderick Warren, son of E.L. Warren and a recent graduate of Lindenwood University in St. Louis, will oversee the Quincy operation.
Slaughter estimates it will cost between $500 and $750 a year per individual. The area will get the first look at how the Vision Literacy Center will work with a "Literacy Boot Camp" from Aug. 6 to Aug. 17 at the Maine Center facility. Twenty-five children will be selected for the program, which will cost about $120 a person.
"The boot camp will involve leaning how to learn," Rod Warren said. "This boot camp will do for a student what a phone booth does for Clark Kent."
Quincy schools and the Quincy Housing Authority are partnering with the Vision Literacy Center.
Quincy Schools Superintendent Tom Leahy called the idea "a good thing" and said Quincy schools will work with the Vision Literacy Center to help identify candidates for the boot camp.
George Harper III is the executive director of the Quincy Public Housing Authority, which offers after-school programs to aid residents' school-age children. Harper said he would welcome the Vision Literacy Central program.
"In public housing, every day we run into people who have had problems with learning," Harper said.
Renee Higgins, director of the literacy program at John Wood Community College, said school officials have met with E.L. and Roderick Warren.
"We are looking to see how the two programs can collaborate together," Higgins said. "Right now, we're just at the beginning of the discussion."