Basic Education Programs Help Learners Take Control

Learners Take Control photo

Without a basic education, it’s hard to move ahead in life. In 2015, the Community Foundation made two grants to help adults leap the educational hurdles that have kept them off the path to success.

One of those awards was $15,000 in general operating support to Literacy Volunteers of Broome/Tioga Counties (LVBTC). Since 1967, this organization has enlisted volunteers to tutor adults one-on- one in reading, writing, English and math.

Some students come to the program with only rudimentary academic skills. “We also have students who are much closer to getting a high school equivalency diploma,” says Kristen Gordon-Pier, executive director at LVBTC. Students in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program may be well-educated but need to become more fluent in English. LVBTC tailors an educational plan to meet each individual’s needs.

LVBTC also offers classes in basic computer skills for adults at the Tioga Adult Learning Lab in Owego. At its headquarters in the Broome County Public Library, it recently added reading and math labs for learners who have not yet been matched with tutors, and a reading roundtable. All of its services are free of charge.

The Community Foundation’s grant helps to cover basic expenses—staff salaries, rent, utilities, instructional materials and other essentials. “This support helps us to continue to provide basic education and ESL services to the 95 adult students and more than 300 computer literacy students we serve,” says Gordon-Pier.

A second $15,000 grant went to the Family Enrichment Network (FEN). This organization has offered free high school equivalency and ESL classes at its headquarters in Johnson City for more than a decade. FEN uses buses from its Head Start program to transport students who couldn’t otherwise get to the classes, and it offers free child care.

“We’re trying to break down some of the barriers that keep people from attending and improving their education levels, and then getting out in the work world and providing for their families,” says Sandele Wenzel, family literacy specialist at FEN.

The Foundation’s support allowed FEN to add high school equivalency classes at the Tioga Workforce New York center in Owego.

Besides helping individuals earn their diplomas, Wenzel says she hopes the new classes will inspire others in the community to develop complementary services. Number one on her wish list: services to replace Tioga County’s defunct public transportation system.

“If we help with that barrier,” Wenzel says, “we take one more worry off people’s shoulders, and those goals they’ve set for themselves become obtainable.”


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