If you are reading this editorial, you are one of the more fortunate members of our society—for the basic fact that you can read.
Did you know that in Louisa County, which has a population of 33,395, nearly 4,000 adults lack basic literacy skills and 5,000 do not have a high school diploma?
Those estimates do not include more recent immigrants in the community who have had little opportunity for education in their own language, not to mention English.
That’s where Adult Community Education (ACE) comes into play. The nonprofit organization has been committed for 26 years to teaching adults to read and tutor them for the General Education Diploma (GED) test. And in more recent years, teaching English as a second language (ESOL) has become increasing important.
It is often difficult or embarrassing for adults to admit that they can’t read or can’t understand. But the staff and volunteers at ACE are committed to providing quality tutoring in basic literacy and English language instruction in a safe and confidential environment.
In the past fiscal year, ACE helped 20 ESOL students, 23 GED pupils and 11 basic literacy students gain a better foothold in life, ultimately logging 2,445 instructional hours.
Changes to the GED testing process beginning in January of 2014 will require students to have more in-depth knowledge, keyboard entry skills and essay writing abilities. If a student partially passes any of the five tests, they will have to retake all of them.
So, there’s a push now to capture everyone who has partially passed those tests in the past to help them get their GED before the new rules take place.
ACE plans to increase enrollment in the next fiscal year, hoping to serve 72 or more students, primarily to help people prepare for the GED.
It makes sense for those without a diploma to take advantage of the help that ACE offers, as it is becoming increasingly difficult for those who did not complete high school a to find jobs in today’s market. That equates to less income and lower job satisfaction.
ACE works closely with other programs in the area including a state-funded regional adult education organization which helps them better coordinate services by having dual-enrolled students.
In addition, Jefferson Area CHIP refers Hispanic mothers to ACE’s women’s English class. And the Louisa Employment Center refers job-seekers who don’t have a diploma or GED. The Department of Corrections Office of Probation and Parole refers clients who need assistance when preparing for their GED.
ACE makes available a computer lab to students for extended practice, and ESOL students enhance their learning with Rosetta Stone. As a result, students are able to boost instructional hours from once to as many as three times a week, to speed progress.
The Family Mentor program, which is used to support ESOL students who have elementary school-aged children, pairs students with a family mentor. The tutor’s role is to help parents better understand their child’s homework and assist them with difficulties in understanding and participating in parent-teacher conferences.
Last year, JABA’s Senior Center sought ACE’s help by asking them to help senior citizens in that program who requested their tutoring services. A special tutor training session was held for seniors, and now three of the new tutors are helping the center’s clients.
By getting more people involved in tutoring, a wider net can be cast to help people who want to learn to read, or who desire better English skills or those who want to pass the GED.
Kudos to the ACE volunteers, who selflessly work to enrich the lives of so many in Louisa County. These volunteers gain satisfaction knowing that they are making a real difference in their students’ lives, as well as their families.
If you or someone you know can take advantage of what ACE has to offer, or if you would like to become a tutor, call (540) 967-5660.