WARSAW — Education becomes more and more valuable with time, something Cynthia Cates, Milford, recognized and what caused her to focus on educational programs in Warsaw. Specifically with Kosciusko Literacy Services, an organization knowing the power that accompanies education and literature.
What started as a part time position in 2003 led to Cates becoming executive director in 2006.
“I see the value of kids learning and can empathize with adults who can’t read well,” said Cates. “As funding shifted at Warsaw Adult Education and focused more on high school equivalency, we took on literacy. I’m teaching literacy for the adults now.”
Having put herself through college to earn a masters in industrial administration was challenging. Cates grew up on a farm, which allowed her to understand the value of hard work and responsibility. It made her independent and helped her realize she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.
Those core values along with self-motivation and determination is what drives Cates in day-to-day tasks in her position at KLS, where she researches and finds grant money while also collaborating with local nonprofits.
When she isn’t managing and organizing, Cates is driving for Mobile Meals, ringing bells for Salvation Army, partaking in Kiwanis Club of Warsaw and sitting on the education workforce committee on the Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, she volunteers to review scholarship applications.
There’s no doubt reading is another big part of Cates’ life.
Through KLS’s book readings, she is exposed to books she wouldn’t normally go out of her way to read, such as “Frankenstein” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” both of which offered interesting supernatural concepts and perspectives.
While she prefers nonfiction, she finds value and appreciation in other genres such as fantasy and science fiction. Even if the book isn’t quite her cup of tea, being able to learn about the authors always keeps her attention.
“We read ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemmingway a few years ago, and I liked it because part of the book readings is that I get to learn about the author too. You can see how their life goes into their book. I enjoy that,” Cates explained. “I tend to lean toward the classics. They provide a base of information you can talk about that happens in the book and gives ‘moral of the story’ type things you can learn from in fiction.”
Cates considers John Steinbeck to be one of her favorite authors, with “Grapes of Wrath” being a particular favorite. The imagery Steinbeck painted made everything the characters went through very real to Cates. When she read it as a teenager, the strong passages stuck with her.
When she reread those passages as an adult and sees them through wizened adult eyes, it was rejuvenating and resonated within her as it’s always interesting to reconnect with a piece of literature in an intangible way.
As most people read to escape to new, unknown worlds, Cates reads to become more intricately connected with reality.