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Lois Hole Memorial Awards 2023: Meet the Winners

The Centre for Family Literacy established Lois Hole Memorial Awards to honour individuals, families, organizations or businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to family literacy. The awards are named after the Centre’s Honorary Patron, the late Dr. Lois Hole, who was one of Alberta’s strongest advocates for literacy.

The 2023 Awards Ceremony was held following the Centre’s Annual General Meeting on May 23, 2023. Keep reading to meet this year’s winners…

Community Leadership Award Winner- Eric Newell

Eric Newell is the President, CEO and Board Chair at Syncrude. During Eric’s tenure at Syncrude, he was successful at launching one of the first workplace literacy programs. Eric has been the Honorary Chair of CFL for many years and has been actively involved in various CFL programs including Wine & Words and the Golf Tournament. Eric worked on the development of the Workforce Skills Project, during which he was a wealth of knowledge on processes, procedures and industry contacts. Prior to kicking off the program, he was the major contributor to the financial needs of the pilot project.

Adult Learner Award Winner – M’Mah Toure

M’Mah Toure is originally from Guinea, West Africa and moved here about five years ago. She was only able to complete Grade 1 in Guinea as her father died and her mother didn’t have help. Since moving to Canada, she has taken some LINC English classes but found it difficult to learn in classroom settings whilst also working and taking care of her family. She often depended on using an online translator or her husband to read emails and text messages.

Gaining the confidence to overcome language barriers here in Canada has been a top goal for her. With three boys ranging between the ages of one and nine, she had goals of reading books to her children, as well as obtaining her driver’s licence, and passing the Canadian citizenship exam. In October 2021, when she signed up for the CFL Adult Tutor program, she was hopeful that she might find success with one-on-one teaching. 

M’Mah is now able to fill out forms by herself, read children’s books cover to cover, and process information (news articles, emails, text messages) more quickly. One of the most overwhelming achievements is the feedback M’Mah gets from the people that see her daily. Family, friends, and coworkers are amazed by her improved communication – to the point that they say it’s like they are speaking to a different person.

In January 2023, she went to the registry and passed her Class 7 learner’s exam with a grade of 100%! Then, in March 2023, M’Mah passed her citizenship exam, getting 19/20 questions right. These were goals she only dreamed of, and she was able to achieve them this year.

Family Learner Award Winner – Ashley Parkes

So many people are unsure what they want to be when they grow up, and Ashley was no different. She struggled to decide which path to take until she became a mom. She now knows for sure, that is what she was meant to be, and it is clear to anyone that sees Ashley with her kids.

This mother of three young girls, remembers her own struggles with reading and literacy as a young child. With determination, hard work, and support from the people she surrounded herself with, she continues to be dedicated to infusing all that she learns in family programs into her children’s literacy skills. 

When the world stopped with the beginning of the pandemic, Ashley was parenting a toddler and was expecting their second daughter.  Also dealing with Postpartum Depression (PPD), parenting through a pandemic was terrifying and exhausting.  At an incredibly isolating time, Ashley started attending an online Rhymes that Bind class with her daughters.  Though she was struggling outside of programs, when Ashley attended a class, she was a peer who gave support and cheered on other parents.

In 2021, Ashley received the help she needed from a mental health professional while she was expecting her third child. Her dreams include seeing her children develop a passion and love for reading, writing, storytelling and even performing stories. She gets excited when talking about how learning should be fun and natural for everyone, but especially for children. Recently, she has even committed to running her own drop-in group to share her dream and vision in her community with her peers.

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