Do you know much about our adult education and literacy program? Before I was named AVP in December 2016 I knew a bit – I was in meetings with the previous Executive Director of AE periodically so I had a very general sense of the good work that goes on in Adult Ed. And in preparation for my interview for this position, I spent an hour with the current Executive Director to learn more. (Funnily enough, even though my role includes supporting Adult Ed, I didn’t get a single question about it in my interview!) I’ve learned a lot more about Adult Ed in the last four years, and my admiration for their work is deep and lasting.
Adult Education is a world of complexity (behind the scenes) aimed at offering opportunities to vulnerable students who need both skills development and basic academic development. AE students take AE classes for free. Their goals vary: they can study and learn and then sit for a high school equivalency exam (what used to be known as the GED), they can learn some basic English, they can prepare for college credit classes, or they can gain job skills while also developing their academic skills.
Why is it a complicated world? Aside from some institutional funding (“hard money”), our AE colleagues mostly do their great work with grants (“soft money”). And grants come with strict deliverables and reporting requirements. Imagine funding your work primarily with multiple grants from multiple agencies with multiple deliverables and multiple reporting requirements. Imagine serving students who have limited resources, perhaps limited English, and limited skill levels – especially in the age of COVID. Answering questions, advising, assessing, supporting enrollment all has to be done in a virtual environment at present with students who may have nothing more than a smart phone, or a family member to translate. Our AE colleagues are heroes.
In the summer of 2019 the Adult Ed Division launched a UFCU Scholars program, thanks to the generosity of University Federal Credit Union, with the goal of helping AE students successfully achieve their educational goals, move into meaningful work, and improve their family’s lives. UFCU funds support scholarships for AE students who complete their AE coursework – thus helping them transition to college credit classes. In the first year of the program UFCU contributed $70,000 to support educational costs for AE students. For instance, those funds helped pay for the cost of the high school equivalency test for students. Primarily, those funds provided tuition and fees for a credit course after AE students completed their AE coursework.
The UFCU Scholars wrote thank you notes to UFCU. Here’s a small selection from those notes:
“I’ve always told myself I wasn’t going to go to college. Look at me now, I can proudly say I’m a college student.”
“I am a mother, a part-time student and I work approximately 65 hours per week to make sure my family has everything we need. Receiving this scholarship has helped me to get one step closer to pursuing a career where I know I can truly make a difference.”
“Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.”
“I never thought that I could afford to go to college, so I never planned on going. My advisor made me feel like college is possible for someone like me and that I can continue my education. “
“Being in college has given me so much to be proud of. I thank y’all for believing in me.”
Adult Education can sometimes be invisible to us – but you should know that it is an essential and compelling part of our mission, vision, and values. And you should also know that the Executive Director of our Adult Education program – Kathy Dowdy – was just named the Adult Education Administrator of the Year by the Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education. Kathy would be the first to tell you that it’s a recognition of her wonderful, dedicated, and hardworking staff and faculty. But it’s also a recognition of her commitment, her heart, and her hard work. Kudos to all – most especially the students whose lives are changed by our Adult Education programs.