My 24 Hours in Newport: Sue Grant

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Sue Grant, founder of The Literacy Project | Photo by Sheri Geoffreys

Sue Grant, founder of The Literacy Project, shares what she loves about life on Lido Isle and setting kids up for success through reading.

By Sharon Stello

 

As founder and volunteer CEO of The Literacy Project, Sue Grant is committed to helping kids improve their reading skills to boost their success in school and life.

Grant established the Newport Beach nonprofit in 2009 after a career in publicity and marketing. “In my first career path, I worked fundamentally to put myself through college and pay bills. [Then, in] my second career path, OC Public Relations, I worked passionately with skills I loved and honed,” Grant says. “[And for] my third career path, The Literacy Project, my heartstrings were tugged and I wanted to return to my original career as a counselor for troubled, school-age kids, especially to help those of lesser means and disadvantaged circumstances—best feeling ever.”

Focused on making the biggest possible impact, she serves the organization unpaid. “I started The Literacy Project within my PR firm and funded the first three years with my staff,” she explains. “When I retired from OCPR and wanted to manage TLP full time, … my husband and I decided I would forgo a salary to enable TLP to further flourish.”

Earlier this year, Grant was honored at the World Literacy Summit for her work. She was selected to make a presentation to the World Literacy Foundation’s judging panel, earning a top five finish. But she emphasizes that TLP’s accomplishments are not hers alone. “It took a village of supporters to passionately develop The Literacy Project in every aspect of what it stands for today,” Grant says.

To date, The Literacy Project has reached more than 10,500 students from low-income families at no cost to children or their schools, thanks to Grant’s efforts, which have helped the nonprofit raise over $4.8 million. The Literacy Project serves students throughout Southern California, from LA to Coachella Valley, as well as Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. In OC, the organization focuses on Anaheim, one of the least literate cities in the nation, Grant notes.

Grant says she feels “incredible” about the progress made by TLP since its inception. “We are so proud to mainly operate in school districts during daytime instruction—that is a giant endorsement of our work,” she says. “We have a small budget, but we are proud that almost every dime goes to our kids and their futures.”

The organization’s program encompasses 30 hours of specialized instruction using TLP’s The New Phonics Game. A master teacher leads a group of six elementary students in a 45-minute session with a board game and cards to cover the 13 phonetic rules. Socially interactive and lightly competitive, the experience promotes learning while having fun.

“Second grade is considered the milestone age when a student needs to master the foundational phonetic skills of reading,” Grant says. “Once they enter third grade, if they are not proficient, they will struggle with reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and writing. Our effort to catch students at this critical age is called ‘bridging the literacy gap.’ … Today, post-COVID, our illiteracy rates among elementary school children have skyrocketed, posting the worst scores in the past 30 years. We now serve third grade kids as well and even some fourth graders who are failing.”

Donations are always needed and welcomed, as well as volunteers—from serving on fundraising committees to providing office assistance, helping in schools, bringing refreshments for graduates or speaking to students about how reading affected your career. For more information, visit literacyproj.org. A fundraiser event, Savor Newport Beach—a Napa-style dinner under the stars—is also set Sept. 23 at Newport Beach Country Club.

Grant has resided in Newport since 1974, but was no stranger to the area while growing up. “I was born in La Habra Heights, … [but] I have been spending time in Newport for as long as I can remember,” she recalls.

Grant lives on Lido Isle with her husband, Gary; they have three grown children, Crystal, Mackenize and Travis, plus two grandchildren, Eastyn, 5, and Hudsyn, 3.

She chose to settle in Newport because she loves the great outdoors and this city’s coastal setting. “Being here is like taking a deep breath of enthusiasm every day,” she says. “I wanted to experience the serenity of the water.”

 

Lido Life

Grant particularly enjoys spending time on LIDO ISLE, where she resides. “I love the golden hearts of the residents, the magically changing views, walking among the gardens and watching life emanate around us every day. It brings such gratitude,” she says.

 

A Restaurant Exterior Night_A Restaurant
A Restaurant | Photo by A Restaurant

Harbor Happiness

With NEWPORT HARBOR so close by, Grant says she loves the “tranquility
of being on the water, anytime.” “We jet ski, paddleboard, [ride in a] Duffy, tender cruise and enjoy our Palm Beach,” she says. “The water is our happy place.”

 

Gulfstream_Lexie Scott
Gulfstream | Photo by Lexie Scott

Divine Dining

“Working as a publicist in hospitality for so many years,” she says, “I have so much admiration for our culinary greats.” She still enjoys going to many of their dining establishments, including A RESTAURANT. “It remains a go-to restaurant for great meals and fond memories.”

 

R&D Kitchen_Fashion Island
R&D Kitchen | Photo by Fashion Island

Culinary Cornerstones

Grant also appreciates the dining options offered by Hillstone Restaurant Group, from BANDERA to GULFSTREAM and R&D KITCHEN. “Lots of exceptional meals and camaraderie at Gulfstream,” she says, “and it will always be extra special because it was my first date with Gary Grant.”

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