Tutoring organization serves 15 locations across state, and helped one student play pro football

By JAMES BURKY | jburky@denverpost.com | The Denver Post

October 25, 2019 at 8:00 am

Paul Browning is living his dream of playing professional football thanks to the Children’s Literacy Center.

In college, the Widefield native was a wide receiver on the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves 2014 national championship team. Now, at 27 years old, he’s a member of the Columbus Destroyers in the Arena Football League.

Crediting the literacy center with his success isn’t a bloated compliment, but a staunch belief of his.

“I struggled with reading, especially out loud,” Browning said. “It’s tough when you’re not reading with everyone else or you’re behind. If I’m gonna be laughed at, I don’t wanna do that anymore. But the literacy center gave me that confidence boost.”

The Colorado Springs-based Children’s Literacy Center tutors kids between first and sixth grades who are at a low reading level. In 2018, the organization worked with 567 students at its 15 locations throughout Colorado.

“We’re able to get these children up to level and be a productive member of society,” said Ann Sulley, the center’s development director.

Volunteer tutors work with students on basic reading comprehension skills. And literacy center staff members say the experience is as rewarding to the tutors as it is the students.

“We had one volunteer who couldn’t wait to start the spring semester,” Pamela Polke, the program director, said. “He kept calling asking when he could start after fall semester had ended.”

The enthusiasm is what impacted Browning all those years ago as Browning was growing up in a Colorado Springs neighborhood where police were not trusted.

When Browning’s mother enrolled him in the literacy center, his volunteer tutor was a police officer.

“I went twice a week, and we developed a real close bond. Because of that bond, I was kept out of situations that would have negatively impacted me,” Browning said. “It’s important as a kid to be with people who are cheering you on and telling you that you ‘can do that.’ I’m able to play professional football because of that encouragement.”


Address: 2928 Straus Lane, Suite 100, Colorado Springs, CO 80907

In operation since: 1993

Number of employees: Five full-time; 15 part-time

Annual budget: $666,500

Percentage that goes directly to client services: 89%

Number of clients served in 2018: 567