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Chesapeake Looks Back on First Year of Adult Education

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

WYE MILLS – One year after taking over Adult Education and Family Literacy Services for most of the region, Chesapeake College is celebrating success and learning to manage the growing demand for adult education in the area.

Chesapeake College in 2008 received a state grant to coordinate all the adult education programs for Caroline, Kent, Dorchester and Talbot counties. The adult education offerings include General Educational Development (GED) preparation and the External Diploma Program (EDP), English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and Adult Basic Education classes.

"I think the change has been wonderful," said Instructional Specialist Patty Silver, who formerly worked with the program in Kent County. "The instructors are very happy with the new arrangement and the students are proud to be affiliated with a college. They now feel like adult learners who are moving forward rather than students going back to high school. That´s a huge incentive for many of our students."

Chesapeake served more than 900 learners through the Adult Education Program during this past year. Elaine Wilson, Chesapeake´s Adult Education program director, has been coordinating the project with help from Silver, Management Information Specialist Mary Branning, Instructional Specialist Jason Mullen; and Intake & Assessment Specialists Kim Duncan, Kelly McMullen and Brenda Horrocks.

When they received word of the grant award last year, Chesapeake College employees had one month to combine separate programs from the four different counties. Logistics such as communicating with the directors and instructors presented challenges. None of the classes in the programs are taught at Chesapeake´s Wye Mills campus, so the program is essentially off site. With geography working against them, the staff had often found themselves driving to class locations because there was no other delivery method for materials.

Wilson said that a challenging task was uniting the formerly county-based programs despite the long distances. The college conducted professional development for the instructors, developed a year-long calendar of events, and coordinated events to transition successful students from adult education classes into college-level courses at Chesapeake.

"This was a tremendous undertaking. We learned we were getting the program last August and had to have classes up and running by September," Wilson said. "It has been challenging, but rewarding. I think the instructors in adult education must be the most dedicated and passionate professionals out there. They love what they do and are so dedicated to their students. Their enthusiasm is contagious and we felt great pride at the graduation ceremony this summer."

Forty-four Mid-Shore residents received their Adult Education Program diplomas through Chesapeake College last year, with 35 participating in the June graduation ceremony.

The class included Anastasio Rauda, 27, of Easton. A native of El Salvador, Rauda said he arrived in Easton on a Sunday and was inquiring about English classes on that Monday.

"This country is the land of opportunity, but I knew that I had to do certain things to make my dreams happen," Rauda said. "I had to learn English and then I needed an education."

So, Rauda enrolled in Chesapeake´s ESL classes. In two years, Rauda completed the highest level of ESL classes, earned his Adult Education credits and even took some college-level classes. He is taking three credit classes at Chesapeake this fall and says he hopes to eventually earn a bachelor´s degree.

"I want to be a teacher in adult education," Rauda said. "Someday, I want to help people the way that my teachers have helped me."

Wilson said she knows there other students like Rauda interested in all levels of the Adult Education program. There is currently a waiting list of about 100 students for ESL and GED classes. In addition to requests from individual students, Wilson said organizations around the area have asked that classes be offered on their sites.

"We would love to offer more, but we simply don´t have the funds to add more classes" Wilson said. "We get requests for more classes everyday and add new student names to our waiting list daily."

For more information, please call 410-827-5835.

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