<< Front page News April 9, 2004

Alumnus perspective

I graduated from Oberlin in May. I moved to Cleveland in the fall and I have been volunteering since August through the Humility of Mary Service Program. I do my service at the West Side Catholic Center, a non-profit organization that offers a Drop-In Center and outreach services to all those in need. I am an assistant to the Volunteer Coordinator, which means I’m the WSCC’s equivalent of a loose ends coordinator. I do just about anything that needs doing, and I make sure that our 150 volunteers that come through each week are enjoying their experience.

I’ve been volunteering for Seeds of Literacy, (SOL) a non-profit organization in Cleveland focused on helping adults attain their GED’s. I am a tutor for the organization. I tutor adults one-on-one on their specific level of learning. I started because the WSCC is one of ten hosts of the GED class, and I teach on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

It was a little bit of culture shock coming out of an institution like Oberlin and seeing other people’s educational status. Entering into SOL, students take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) survey test to assess their reading and math levels. Many of the students I’ve worked with almost completed high school, and when they enter our program, test into a low elementary level. Many have untested and undetected learning disabilities, but many just had a poor education.

What is wrong with our school systems? Why can’t students go into our public schools and learn? Why are they being passed through grade level after grade level without any understanding of the proper materials?

My students are bright, hard workers who really want to learn. In most cases, no one is making them come here. They want their GED’s, the equivalent of a high school diploma and something most of us never considered not having. For you, it was probably in a natural sequence of events.

Several of my students complete the equivalent of a grade level in language arts in a few months. Some charge through math books like fractions, decimals and percents over a weekend.

The job market ain’t a happy place. You may feel grad school is the only option after Oberlin. They know a GED is the most valuable piece of paper and preparing for it, no matter how much time is spent, is well-worth the efforts.

Through SOL, if they take a GED pre-test and pass, we distribute vouchers for the real test. It’s a big deal to get that far. We get a lot of students who phase in and out. They can’t help it most of the time. A job may come up or a family emergency. Face it, it’s a lot easier to get a high school degree as a kid with a supportive family.

It’s a lot harder to always prioritize your education when you have a family to support and others who you interact with each day aren’t tackling classes as well as jobs, like you. Just think about those times when your friends are smooth sailing through their classes, and you have to write a few papers and study for some tests. Now imagine that for the your entire high school education and beyond.


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