Guest Column: Looking back, ahead at Adult Learning Center

Published 11:10 pm Friday, August 10, 2018

Live United by Penny Jahnke

Penny Jahnke


How’s your summer going?  Fast. I have had and heard this conversation many times in the last couple of weeks. As I begin my eighth year at the Adult Learning Center, I am reminded again how fast time goes and how things change. When I started, we were a staff of seven with a few volunteers, we served a little over 100 students and accumulated 12,000 contact hours. We occupied two classrooms, a room that housed eight computers, our data specialist and my office and a child care room that served around 18 children. Our primary focus was General Educational Development and English Language Learner classes. Around 20 students rode SMART Transit. Fast forward eight years. We now have a staff of 12 and five volunteers. We serve over 250 students with 24,000 contact hours. We use five classrooms, a computer lab with 15 computers and our child care room, which serves over 50 children throughout the year.  We still have GED and ELL classes but have added citizenship, paraeducator training, digital literacy, drivers training, distance learning and Riverland math. This year we hope to expand our classes to include health literacy, sewing and budgeting. Over 60 students and their children rode SMART Transit to school this past year

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How did we get to where we are today? First, we have amazing students. Over 50 percent of our students work, are raising a family and attending school. Many of our students work the second or third shift but still make coming to school a priority. Our students are dedicated to improving their life and their family’s life, just ask our 76-year-old Karen student or the 52-year-old women who received her GED last year. Second, we have a very talented and dedicated staff.  Every one of us brings our own unique set of skills. We all feel privileged to work with each other and our students and enjoy coming to work every day. And finally, rarely does a day go by when someone doesn’t say, “it takes a village.” We could not do this work alone, and we would not want to do this work alone. The grant from the United Way allows us to offer child care. Without child care, many of our students would not be able to attend classes. Our partnership with SMART Transit allows students and their children to get to school every day. Our partners within the Albert Lea school district, such as early learning, special education and early childhood screening, allow many children to attend preschool or receive the services they need. I could go on and on about how wonderful it is to be a part of this “village” we call Albert Lea and Freeborn County.

I look forward to starting another exciting year at the Albert Lea Adult Learning Center. Registration for students will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 22 at Brookside Education Center.  Classes begin Aug. 27.

Penny Jahnke is the coordinator for the Albert Lea Adult Learning Center.