Adult Basic Education offers English teaching, GED testing
Published 12:02 pm Thursday, March 5, 2015
‘We let them know they can get their potential’
Four days a week during the school year, Albert Lea resident Dolores Limon attends Adult Basic Education classes at Brookside Education Center.
Limon, who has lived in Albert Lea for 19 years, said the program through Albert Lea’s Community Education provides her an opportunity to get her education and be successful. A native of Mexico, her primary language is Spanish.
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She said she initially came to the program to learn English, but now she hopes to achieve her General Education Development diploma in the next year and set an example for her children of the value of education.
“The chance is here,” she said. “The opportunity is here.”
Limon, who has five children ranging in age from 7 months to 17 years old, is one of 199 who have walked through the doors of Albert Lea’s Adult Basic Education program at Brookside Education Center since May 1, 2014, said Penny Jahnke, ABE coordinator. There are 126 people who actively participate.
Jahnke said unbeknownst to the community, Adult Basic Education offers everything from English-language teaching to help for people to pass the GED tests to citizenship classes and parenting classes. There’s even going to be a class this fall to help people transition into college or the workforce after obtaining their GEDs.
In addition to classes, the students, who range in age, have been involved in the Blue Zones Project, are developing friendships and are coming together as a community, she said.
She said she and the teachers work with the students and help them come up with goals for the future.
“We let them know they can get their potential,” Jahnke said. “For us they see a lot of hope. They get more confidence in themselves.”
About one-third of the participants are working and attending classes, and Jahnke said she wanted to let the community know all of the hard work the students put into their studies.
“This is not basic by any means,” she said. “It’s hard work. These people are working really hard to learn.”
Some of the students know as many as three or four languages, and some obtained education from their countries before moving to the United States.
Jahnke said there is free child care available to people through a United Way grant, and she and the teachers try to remove any barriers possible to help people achieve their goals.
All of the children ages 3 to 5 are enrolled in preschool, and lunches are provided.
“We look at it as a whole family unit,” Jahnke said.
Audrey Ware said she has lived in Albert Lea for 4 1/2 years and is attending classes to obtain her GED.
The mother of three children, she said things are getting more expensive for her and her husband, and she wants to help provide for the family and help save for her children’s future.
She said without all of the resources the program provides, such as transportation and day care, it would not be possible.
Hanay Paw, who has been attending classes off and on for about three years, said she hopes to develop her English skills in the program. While reading and speaking in English have become easier for her, she is still challenged by writing in the language. She already can speak four other languages.
Jahnke said the program saw its highest enrollment about two years ago when there were 269 people who walked through the doors, before the launch of the new General Education Development test. Around the same time, the economy picked up and many participants found jobs.
Across Minnesota, there were 69,623 participants beginning in 2014.
Participants in Albert Lea Adult Basic Education
Asian: 47 students, 37% of students
Hispanic or latino: 36 students, 29% of students
Black or African-American: 25 students, 20% of students
White: 17 students, 13% of students
Two or more races 1 student, 1% of students
Languages spoken by students in the Albert Lea Adult Basic Education program
Karen 35 students, 28% of the students
Spanish 31 students, 25% of the students
English 23 students, 18% of the students
Nuer 18 students, 14% of the students
Vietnamese 4 students, 3% of the students
Chinese 3 students, 2% of the students
Burmese 2 students, 2% of the students
Arabic 2 students, 2% of the students