LaToya Whitlock. Photo by Erika Doll/Today's Woman Magazine.
LaToya Whitlock. Photo by Erika Doll/Today's Woman Magazine.

UofL alumna LaToya Whitlock (’14) is featured in the December issue of Today’s Woman for her work with the Decode Project. 

The project identifies the complexities of learning how to read, particularly for young children who may not have the same access or exposure to words and books. Whitlock noticed these discrepancies while working as a counselor at a small local school, observing that children who weren’t able to read were more likely to avoid the classroom and therefore more often referred to her for having behavioral issues. 

She began to use her time with those students to teach them structured literacy and witnessed quick and positive results. This method led to the creation of the Decode Project. 

According to Today’s Woman, the Decode Project uses “explicitly trained and paid mentors to help ensure children at risk of functional illiteracy get the help they need so they can read at a grade level.” 

The nonprofit organization has tapped into UofL’s honors program to identify student mentors, who receive training on structured literacy, anti-racism, anti-bias and resiliency. 

The program, which shifted to online instruction during the pandemic, has grown into an office in the Portland neighborhood where parents and caregivers can access the project’s curriculum. 

“Our goal is to improve their reading score, but also to have them feel like they belong in school and that they’re capable,” Whitlock told the publication. 

Photo provided by Erika Doll/Today’s Woman Magazine.