The Literacy Cooperative Staff

Robert Paponetti

President & Chief Executive Officer

Robert E. Paponetti currently serves as the President & Chief Executive Officer of The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland. In this capacity, Mr. Paponetti leads an intermediary agency for literacy initiatives involving Adult Literacy and Career Pathways, Early Literacy, and Parent Engagement. He works to strengthen our community’s ability to increase literacy by engaging stakeholders, promoting promising practices, aligning actions, measuring progress, and advocating for sustained support of effective literacy efforts.

Major initiatives for adult literacy and workforce development include advancing the skills of low-literate adults through effective models of Career Pathway implementation in targeted growth sectors, supporting evidence-based workplace literacy projects, and blending contextualized literacy with vocational training. Early literacy initiatives address barriers to success for children, and support aligned activities for school readiness and parent engagement.  Professional development and technical assistance are provided for early literacy, adult education, and family literacy based on research-based and promising practices.

Prior to joining The Literacy Cooperative, Mr. Paponetti served as the Vice President of Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce and Economic Development Division and the Executive Director of the Workforce Solutions Division. In this capacity, he developed, implemented and directed a wide array of workforce preparation initiatives and training programs that supported regional economic growth. Mr. Paponetti incorporated innovative workplace literacy and contextualized learning components into the training curriculum that met the needs of the business community. Mr. Paponetti was the project manager of the Jobs For the Future-Breaking Through Initiative.

As the Director of Cuyahoga County’s Department of Workforce Development, Mr. Paponetti guided workforce preparation systems and skills upgrading activities for County residents. He also managed the County’s “One-Stop” which was recognized as the first certified center in Ohio to have multiple partners housed together providing all needed services for job seekers and employers. During this time, Mr. Paponetti was the Executive Director of the 35-member Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board that included many of the County’s business, education, and civic leaders.

Mr. Paponetti also served as a Director of Workforce Development for both CGI Group, Inc. and ORION Consulting where he designed and operated workforce training programs customized to meet the needs of employers combining both technical skills and workplace success skills.

Mr. Paponetti is a member of the Executive Council of the Ohio Workforce Coalition, the Literacy Funders Network Executive Committee, the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, and the Commission on Adult Continuing Education. He served as a member of the United Way of Greater Cleveland Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the United Way Self-Sufficiency and Basic Skills Investment Committee as well as the Ohio Skills Bank Healthcare Sub-Committee, and the Talent Team for the Fund For Our Economic Future.

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Laureen Atkins-Holliday

Vice President – Strategic Initiatives

Laureen Atkins-Holliday serves as the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. In her role, Mrs. Atkins-Holliday engages stakeholders to address literacy gaps, researches promising literacy practices that articulate seamlessly with workforce initiatives, and advocates for literacy inclusion practices with evidence-based measures for learner outcomes.  Her work includes leading initiatives for two-generational learning environments, career pathway opportunities for low-literate adults, and implementing industry-specific contextualized curriculum.  In addition, she oversees our series of Professional Development offerings that focus on Excellent Teaching, which bring together literacy experts with area practitioners and administrators.

Prior to joining The Literacy Cooperative, Laureen was a Social Program Administrator in the Office of Health & Human Services division of Cuyahoga County where she managed a $4.5 million federal grant. While at Cuyahoga County, she was Deputy Director of Workforce Development for six years and oversaw the operation of the One-Stop System with responsibilities including evaluating and reviewing service delivery; monitoring compliance to federal and state regulations; providing oversight for regional and multiple partner grant-funded projects; and overseeing program budgets and expenditures with an operating budget of more than $20 million. Mrs. Atkins-Holliday also worked for the Center of Career Pathway Development for Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce and Economic Development Division. As Director III, she oversaw and managed the staff of literacy and workplace success skills programs. Her private sector work includes 13 years as a consultant and manager with CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants. 

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McKenzae Bartels

Development Director

McKenzae serves as the Resource Development Manager. Prior to joining The Literacy Cooperative, McKenzae worked at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland as the Development Operations Coordinator and as a Family Advocate at The Centers for Families and Children. She is passionate about serving the Cleveland community and advancing the goals of The Literacy Cooperative. McKenzae holds a Master’s degree in Non-Profit Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University.

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Joan Spoerl, M.A.T.

Director, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Joan Spoerl serves as Director of the Imagination Library program. In this role, she works to expand the number of families enrolled in the program in Cuyahoga County.

She taught kindergarten for 10 years in a NAEYC-accredited hospital-based child care center and then taught Head Start and preschool in the Chicago Public Schools. She was a finalist for the Kohl-McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award and was chosen as the featured teacher in Voices for Illinois Children’s Start Early: Learning Begins at Birth prime-time television and radio advertising campaign. Click here to view this brief video. She previously served on the boards of NAEYC affiliates (National Association for the Education of Young Children) in Chicago and Cleveland. She currently serves on the board of the National Black Child Development Institute-Cleveland chapter.

Since moving to Northeast Ohio from Chicago in 2004, she has enjoyed her professional and volunteer work with many organizations in the community, including the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, Family Connections of Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools, the University of Chicago Alumni Club of Ohio, the Summer on the Cuyahoga internship program and more.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago and her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University.

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Grace Hare

Marketing & Communications Associate

Grace serves as the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is responsible for managing various social media accounts and coordinating communication campaigns across platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. Prior to joining The Literacy Cooperative, she worked as a freelance Social Media Manager, overseeing the implementation of social media strategies for a variety of clients. With a strong passion for expanding literacy, Grace combines her marketing expertise with her dedication to this cause. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Kent State University.

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Macy Smith

Project Associate

Macy serves as Project Associate. In this role, she manages daily office operations and provides support for The Literacy Cooperative’s various initiatives and programs, including the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Macy previously worked with the Literacy Cooperative as an Imagination Library Intern in 2021 while in college. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from Cornell University.

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Meagen Farrell

Professional Development Consultant

Meagen serves as a national author and trainer in the field of adult literacy, helping educators find a balance between face-to-face and digital instruction. She has a BA in Religion from Oberlin College, a Certificate in Distance Education from Penn State University, an MA in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Technology at Kent State University. 

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