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Harlingen Literacy Center: Decades of Change

Updated: Mar 17

(This article was written by Steven Hughes and appeared in the March 2024 issue of the Explore Harlingen Magazine.)

Mural on exterior wall at the literacy center
Mural at Harlingen Literacy Center

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is a blend of adults at different literacy levels of English or using technology that impacts their way of navigating an English and tech-dominated era.


Since 1986, the Literacy Center of Harlingen has been a resource for adults from 18 to 60+ years old in the RGV who are seeking professional and personal growth, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Several students seated at tables at the literacy center
Students at the literacy center

In addition hosting English as a second language classes, the center hosts General Educational Development (GED) and the United States’ naturalization test preparation courses. They’ve occasionally had speakers from different organizations host specialized workshops, such as cooking heart-healthy meals, taught in English and Spanish.

Marina stands to present at a meet the nonprofits meeting
Marina Preston at a nonprofit presentation at the Chamber

In addition to its staff, Harlingen’s literacy center works with volunteers who run the low-cost classes. Marina Preston, the center’s new executive director as of May 2023, enjoys seeing her center’s community and family fostered.


“I have this concept that the RGV doesn’t need to just to survive; it has to thrive,” Preston said.


Preston estimated the center is currently servicing 151 students but has seen more than 250 students at once after they pay a one-time $20 fee, with payment plan options. One student in particular reinforces Preston’s passion for the center’s success.


She spoke of a soon-to-be 69-year-old using the center to gain her GED for personal reasons — Preston adding the student’s job doesn’t require a GED.


Flyer with Anita Boswell as guest of honor for celebrity roast
Flyer for Celebrity Roast on March 19

Although the center receives funding from community and organization partners in and out of the RGV, the center hosts an annual Celebrity Roast fundraiser where folks can eat dinner and hear friendly jokes about an honored guest. It’s from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 19 at the Texas State Technical College’s Cultural Arts Center, featuring Anita Boswell, the center’s vice chair, as the special roasting guest.


For more information about the center, call 956-428-8883 or visit it at 101 East Monroe Ave. in Harlingen.


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