Families & Literacy, Inc. offers adult education
Education can unlock doors to a host of opportunities, and one organization in Kerrville works to ensure everyone has a key.
Families & Literacy, Inc. serves 300 adult students annually in a five-county area. “Our students are solicited through word of mouth, business and community contacts for folks who need a little help meeting their educational goals,” says Executive Director Mindy Wendele.
Students complete coursework that can better the circumstances of entire families. “Our students’ ages are 17 to 97. It’s truly adults,” Wendele says. “If we can help the adults in the family be better educated, they can help their children, their grandchildren and so forth.”
Students pay a maximum of $135 a semester, or roughly 19% of the true cost. “Our board feels very strongly that all of our students should have a financial investment in their education goals,” Wendele says.
LEARNING THE LANGUAGE
There is a robust English as a second language program, with six levels of ESL classes. The most advanced students recently replaced textbooks with laptops. “It’s helping the students feel more comfortable using a computer, and, of course, they’re learning high-level English at the same time,” Wendele says. The laptops stay in the classroom, but students can access the web-based program to complete assignments from their home computers, their phones or public computers at the library.
HCTC provides the broadband connection that makes innovations like this possible. “Our relationship with HCTC is wonderful,” Wendele says. “They are such an important part of our everyday world. They support so many nonprofits by providing sponsorships for events and fundraisers, personnel to work and volunteer, and providing the technology for our computers that we live and breathe with every day. They are there constantly to help us do our mission to help our students and their families, and thus help our community.”
EARNING A DIPLOMA
Students working to earn their high school diplomas begin by taking a skills assessment. “The diversity of our students is huge,” Wendele says. “The younger the student, the closer to the time that they were in some sort of organized classroom. Obviously, the older ones have been away from it a lot longer, so there are different levels and abilities. If they can master these assessments, age doesn’t make any difference.”
Aides come in as needed to assist students. “We have a wonderful relationship with our local university here in Kerrville, and so we use their students to help our students in those cases,” she says.
PREPARING TO JOIN THE MELTING POT
Immigrants working to obtain U.S. citizenship also find support at Families & Literacy. The civics and U.S. government class prepares them for the 100-question multiple-choice test and the oral interview they must pass in order to become naturalized citizens.
“It’s a long, long journey, and it’s expensive,” Wendele says. “We try to raise as much money as we can to keep the cost down for our students. They’re going to have all kinds of expenses with immigration attorneys and all of those things, so the least expensive thing is us.”
Families & Literacy provides course materials and volunteer instructors, and community partnerships provide the classrooms. “We have a situation where our classes need to be in the evenings because these are adults and they’re working,” Wendele says. “All of our classroom space is mainly with First United Methodist Church, and then we also branch out to our First Presbyterian Church. It’s their education buildings, and they’re not being used so much in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it works out beautifully.”
Working parents don’t need to worry about finding a sitter — child care is provided. “It makes a huge difference,” Wendele says. “That has been a stumbling block for many years because, obviously, if you’re trying to work all day long when the children may be in school or day care, and then you’re trying to take classes at night, if you don’t have anyplace to take them, that’s another expense. We’re so blessed that the Methodist church provides staffing for our students’ children. That really does help.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Students who complete the courses sing the program’s praises and often refer others. “Many of our students who have been successful with us become our greatest advocates, our greatest ambassadors to help others,” Wendele says. “Those folks become our champions to have other people come to us and say, ‘Help me now.’”
For more information on Families & Literacy, including a class schedule and details on donating and volunteering, visit familiesandliteracy.org.