About LearningQuest


Read + Write + Work = Success


Educating for a better tomorrow.

LearningQuest — Stanislaus Literacy Centers, a non-profit corporation in partnership with the community – business, education and government – teaches adults and their families basic education skills – helps parents become their child’s first and best teacher and prepares a more productive workforce.

2015 Annual Report

Why We Exist


Our county needs LearningQuest because of the challenges we have in terms of poverty and lack of education.

  • 37.1% of population is not in the labor force
  • 1 in 2.7 is receiving some sort of public assistance
  • 13.4% of our adult population has less than a 9th grade education
  • 1 in 5 high school students failed to graduate
  • 22% drop out of school and 14.4% of the adult population did not attend high school
  • 77.8% have a high school diploma compared to 86.4% average in US
  • 11.6% have a bachelor’s degree

Stanislaus County adults need remedial education leading to a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalency in order to get a job or get a better job with a living wage. There is a lack of resources in our county. We are one of only four entities offering classes to prepare for the high school equivalency test and one of only two offering instruction in Spanish.

Our agency is also the only provider of adult basic literacy (non-readers to 7th grade level) for English speaking adults. The need for literacy was demonstrated through workforce testing conducted at two manufacturing plants which found that, out of 1,000 applicants, 26% read between 4th and 7th grade level and 25% below a 4th grade level. Our agency has found success in providing individualized tutoring in English using volunteers, and in providing ESL classes in the neighborhoods most in need of services.

History of LQ


Tri-Valley Growers cannery realizes a need for literacy and Volunteer Center responds with a  literacy program provided on site which becomes community based as well using volunteers to tutor.


A literacy program is brought to the Stanislaus County Jail .


Volunteer Center is absorbed into United Way and Stanislaus Literacy Center takes over the non-profit of Volunteer Center and changes its name and mission and continues to provide literacy tutoring.


Karen Williams becomes the first Executive Director of Stanislaus Literacy Center.


The first family literacy and English as a Second Language program is launched at Wakefield Elementary in Turlock.


A partnership with Community Services Agency is formed to provide literacy and pre-GED services for customers on Welfare to Work grants. This leads to 17 years of expansion of services to include GED (now known as High School Equivalency) preparation in five locations and Adult Basic Education in one location.


A partnership with Stanislaus County Library is birthed and LQ begins to operate literacy programs in the library under the name ReadingWorks.


The organization undergoes a move to a larger facility and a name change to LearningQuest (LQ).

Board of Directors 2016

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President – Vaughn Brenda
VP Valley Tool Manufacturing

Vaughn Brenda was born and raised in Turlock, California where he has worked in his family business Valley Farm Supply Stores as CEO and Valley Tool & Mfg. Co. as Vice President. Vaughn is married to his wife Morgan whom together have two sons Arjen and Reid Brenda.
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Teddi Lowry- Vice President
Business Dev. Officer Oak Valley Bank

Teddi Lowry is the Vice-President Branch Manager of Oak Valley Community Bank’s Modesto Dale Road Office located at the corner of Dale Road and Pelandale Avenue. She has been in banking for over 35 years and has strong ties in the community. She is on the board of Stanislaus Learning Quest and has been on the committee for Stanislaus Elder Abuse Prevention Alliance Safe Banking for 10 years. She enjoys reading, golfing, and spending time with her grandkids. She resides in Modesto with her husband Robert.
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Josh Weimer
Turlock Irrigation District

Josh Weimer is a legislative analyst for Turlock Irrigations District. He also has experience managing construction projects for Brownstone Equities and has been an account manager and sales director for Ambassador Energy Inc. He is a member of Monte Vista Chapel where he has attended all his life.
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Nancy Goss Ugarte, Secretary/Treasurer
Owner, Almond Valley Realty

Nancy Ugarte has lived in Modesto for the past 25 years. Her career includes 20 years as a Certified Human Resources professional, holding senior positions working for local agricultural and food processors. For the past five years, she and her husband, Ed Ugarte have been business partners & co-owners in the Modesto Almond Valley Realty brokerage.
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Paul Zeek, Past President
Chief of Staff Assemblymember Kristin Olsen

Currently serves as Chief of Staff for California Assemblymember Kristin Olsen. Besides LearningQuest, Zeek also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County and participates on the Advisory Board of the Education and Human Development Academy at Johansen High School. .Zeek earned a Masters of Strategic Foresight through the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship at Regent University and also has a degree in Biblical Studies.
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Brenda Thames, Vice President of Student Services
Modesto Junior College

Brenda Thames, Vice President of Student Services Modesto Junior College
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Stephen Kellog

Stephen Kellog
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Thomas Hogan
Attorney-at-law, owner

Thomas Hogan Attorney-at-law, owner
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Marylou Hacker Rousseau
Retired Educator

Retired MJC professor and Director of Foster Kinship Care Education Program. Docent at McHenry Museum, avid reader and traveler. Married to Donald Rousseau, with two sons and three grandchildren.
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Employment Opportunities



Q. How are you funded?

A. 88% of funding is from government grants and contracts for service. Because government dollars are shrinking, LQ is committed to decreasing dependence on government sources and increasing financial support from community members. This way, LQ board of directors and staff can better serve the people of Stanislaus County by making decisions on the best way to use funds for the benefit of our community, our students and our volunteers. Our goal is to raise $100,000 this year in donations and continue to increase funding from donations by 4% per year until at least half of all income is from donations.


Q. How long does it take for people to finish the program?

A. This varies greatly by person. The average amount of time in our literacy program is two years, but it is really determined by the reading level coming into the program and whether or not the person has a learning disability which tends to slow the process of learning. In the HSE program, the average is six months, and in the English as a Second Language classes, the average is two years per level.


Q. How do you assess the progress of your students?

A. We use a pre and post assessment test in reading and math, if applicable. The results are tracked by class and program. Our agency studies the data and investigates ways to improve so students learn more and have better success in meeting goals.


Q.  What can I do to help?

A. There are a variety of ways to help and we believe the answer is as individual as you are. There are traditional ways in which people have gotten involved, but this list is only a starting point. We are open to how you would like to help. Some of the traditional ways are these:

  • Volunteering as a tutor
  • Helping on event committees, with publicity or in the office
  • Providing goods and services at discount or free
  • Providing items from the wish list or donations to purchase these items
  • Teaching workshops for HSE students on academic or life skill topics
  • Mentoring HSE graduates for transition to work or college
  • Assisting people in preparing to pass citizenship test
  • Assisting with children in family literacy programs