Early death concern for dropouts

Anecdoctal research in England shows that one in six teenagers out of work or education for a long period could be dead within 10 years.

The research looked back at the so-called ‘Neets’ (not in education, employment or training) of 10 years ago, and discovered that 15% of those studied had already died.

Although this is only representative of Northern England, it is a wake up call for everyone.

Read the complete article here.

New Vocabulary, Real Life

In each GED class taught at Project Learn, the instructors put an emphasis on expanding the students’ vocabulary. This is important because misunderstanding a word could cause them to miss a question on the GED test.

In my Generation Y GED class, I take it one step further by requiring that the students write a story using all of the vocabulary words for that week. At first, the students complained that the assignment was too hard. However, when I read some of their stories, I was quite impressed. Here’s a few that caught my attention:

Vocabulary Words:

  • Absenteeism
  • Absolute
  • Accuse
  • Alteration
  • Attractive
  • Authorization
  • Betrayal
  • Bleak

“Lynne was feeling her friend’s betrayal. Lynne’s friend went so far as to accuse her of not getting the proper authorization before making an alteration to a client’s portfolio. The client’s chronic absenteeism was not acquiring any attractive offers. Lynne knew with absolute certainty that because of her friend’s betrayal, her future at the company was very bleak indeed.”

 Vocabulary Words:

  • Chance
  • Common
  • Conviction
  • Cozy
  • Decorate
  • Defined
  • Detrimental

“My brother is 31 years old. He has been given plenty of chances throughout his whole life. When he was a young man, it was very common for him to be in trouble. He was convicted for many crimes. He told me that the hardest thing to adapt to in prison is missing that cozy feeling when he was at home with family. I would always send him pictures of the family so he could decorate his cell. When we visited him in jail, there were defined rules and regulations that we had to follow. Being away from your loved ones for a long period of time can be detrimental for you because it hurts to miss people you love.”

 

I’ll continue to share their stories as new vocabulary words are introduced.

-Alexia

Generation Y and Harlem Nights

A few months ago, I started teaching the Generation Y GED class in addition to my duties as community relations manager. The class is for students who are 16 to 24 years old, hence the name Generation Y. At first, I didn’t know what to expect and wondered how my students would respond to me as their teacher. I was nervous, yet excited.

One student told me,

 “Sometimes I’m so wrapped up in what’s going on in my life that I don’t realize other events that are happening and may affect me.”

After hearing this, I created lesson plans and developed activities that would increase their awareness of what is happening in the world. One of the activities is something they must do every class session. The students analyze an article in the newspaper or news website and share their story with the class, explaining their personal ties with the article’s outcome. They love it.

In another assignment, a student wrote an essay about his favorite movie, Harlem Nights. I was very impressed with how he explained why this was his favorite movie, citing various movie scenes and how it related to him. Compared to his first essay, it showed his growth as a writer.

Check out his work:

“My favorite movie of all times would have to be Harlem Nights. The reason I selected this movie as my favorite is because it demonstrated how the Black community in those times had power, togetherness and loyalty.

The movie’s writer show how in the early 1900s, the Black community had respect, honor, loyalty and Blacks were a unit. There were famous Black actors and actresses who came together and paid respect to a generation.

I loved Harlem Nights because it showed how Black people did what they wanted to do and had money for whatever came their way. It was a scene where one of the characters lost trust with another one, and did like I would do by handling their business like adults.

What I learned from Harlem Nights is that it’s not always who or what you know, it’s more of how you tend to use that situation and make the best of what is in your surroundings.”

I’d like to share other assignments, class experiences and student responses. It lets you to take a glimpse into what we do at Project Learn, while allowing the students to see their work publicly highlighted.

– Alexia

Time to Break Cycle of No Skills, No Jobs

The Detroit Free Press reported that low level of literacy adds fuel to employment crisis. Very true.

In Summit County, Ohio, there are 45,000 adults who don’t read well enough to earn a living wage. There is also 52,000 adults over the age of 25 who lack a high school diploma. This is a problem for people who need to be able to read and possess a high school diploma to work a job that pays well enough to support their families.

Although Project Learn serves adults in Summit and Portage county who are in need of literacy skills, we recognize that low literacy is a national problem. 

Detroit (Michigan) has about 365,000 residents age 16 and older who read below sixth-grade level. That’s more than a third of a city that is losing residents every year.

Read more about Detroit’s problem here.

GED Graduates Honored for Accomplishments

Seated graduates

More than 185 Project Learn students have earned GED diplomas since last June. On Tuesday, about 45 of them attended a graduation to honor their accomplishments.
 
One of the graduates, Samuel Potter, dropped out of high school 14 years ago. He once considered himself an “under-achiever” who was more interested in making money than learning.
 
However, in 2008, Potter realized he wanted a change in his life. He came to Project Learn for help earning his GED. His goal was to become more competitive in the job market. Not only did Potter earn his GED, but he is now the CEO of his own computer software company and will release a science fiction strategy game next month.
 
Potter was also honored with an award for being Project Learn’s top scholar for the 2008-2009 program year. He earned this distinction by scoring 752 out of 800 possible points on the official GED test.
 
“Getting my GED gave me the confidence to do what I never did, and the credibility to be great in life,” Potter said.

Click here to read more.

Project Learn To Recognize GED Graduates, Outstanding Students and Devoted Volunteers

2008 GED GradMotivation, inspiration and dedication.
 
These three words describe the more than 165 GED students who received their GED diploma in the FY 2008-2009 program year.
 
“Our GED graduates are high on motivation and are an inspiration for other students who aspire to achieve the same goal,” said Executive Director Rick McIntosh.
 
For these students, June 23, 2009 could not come any sooner. Approximately 75 students are expected to participate in the agency’s annual GED Recognition and Graduation ceremony next Tuesday.
 
“It will be a day to remember,” McIntosh said. “Graduation is always exciting, especially for students who have been waiting decades to experience it.”
 
Students and volunteers will also be recognized for their progress in their class curriculum and devotion to volunteering and tutoring. Maurice Thomas, former Project Learn GED graduate, will give an inspirational speech to this year’s graduates. Thomas will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in emergency management in December.
 
David Jennings, executive director of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, will serve as the ceremony’s keynote speaker and will discuss the importance of education.
 
The graduation and recognition ceremony will be held in the auditorium of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

Exemplary Rating, Exceptional Program

Project Learn of Summit County was recently rated an “exemplary” program by the Ohio Board of Regents. Project Learn students and staff talk about what the rating says about the agency’s culture, program and teachers.

Student Spotlight: Maurice Thomas

Maurice Thomas, 2006 GED graduateLast week Maurice Thomas, a 2006 GED graduate, stopped by to share his educational accomplishments.

He received his associate’s degree in fire protection last year and will be graduating from the University of Akron in December with a bachelor’s degree in emergency management.

Maurice, who currently works as a freelance videographer, plans on using his talent to help improve emergency management systems. He hopes to work for FEMA and help the organization become “more proactive, not reactive.”

“The 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina opened my eyes to a lot of things that were going on,” he explained. “I want to be able to help people get through to unexpected hard times.”

Maurice dropped out of high school when he was in the 10th grade so that he could take care of his daughter.

“It was hard because I was a father before I was a man,” he said. “But that’s the only reason why I stopped going to school. I had to provide for my family.”

After seeing where the economy was headed, he decided it was time to finish his education.

“Some people decide to further their education for their children, but I did it for myself,” he said. “This allowed me to better provide for my children and become a better role model.”

Maurice said he wants African-American males to use him as an example.

“If you want something, you have to work for it,” he said. “And that’s what I did.”

To read more student success stories, click here.

Meet the Board

Project Learn has decided to add a new feature to this blog.  “Meet the Board” will be a weekly post that will feature a new Project Learn board member who will share why they decided to get involved with Project Learn and their thoughts on literacy and personal experiences with education.

1. What is your name, title and employer?
Denise Stuart, associate professor at the University of AkronCollege of Education

2. Do you hold a specific seat on the Board?
I serve as chair of the program committee. This allows me stay in touch with the many programs Project Learn offers and to involve students from the University of Akron with program activities.

3. Why did you choose to become involved with Project Learn?
I have been involved with adult literacy for many years, as a volunteer initially, then as a family literacy coordinator in another county, as a member of a reading group for adult readers and now with Project Learn. I was aware of the good work Project Learn was doing in the Akron/Summit County community and so when I began to teach at the University of Akron I wanted to get involved locally. I’m glad I did.

4. In your opinion, what is the value of education?
Education creates opportunity and can open doors to options. Options are part of freedom in life. South African leader Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It can change the world of the individual and of the community. A woman who works for children’s rights, Marion Wright Edelman says that “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” It is all about hope and possibility.

5. In Summit County, more than 62,000 people over the age of 18 lack a high school diploma. How do you interpret this?
This reflects the trend nationally and continues to need attention. The kinds of jobs available has changed as plants and factories have closed or downsized. Additional skills and abilities are now needed. Our schools are working through reform efforts that make learning more meaningful and relevant, that consider new structures for high school, and ways we can assess learning beyond one test. A program with The University of Akron, Early College High School, is one new approach to high school that helps prepare students for careers as well as college.

6. What is your favorite book? Why?
This is such a hard question… There are some I keep coming back to and read again and again like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a delightful and magical story of generations of a family in a village over 100 years and all that can happen in life. I enjoy escaping in mysteries like Walter Moseley’s series of Easy Rawlins crime and PI adventures set in L.A. over the decades. I like to get to know characters in a story. As a child I enjoyed Pippi Longstocking’s zany adventures and Nancy Drew’s clever solving of mysteries. I teach children’s literature so I very much enjoy exploring books I can recommend to teachers and children, readers of all ages. And lately I’ve been thinking about my grandmother who grew up in Finland. I never heard her story about those times. So I have been reading information about what Finland is like, imagining her life. I hope someday I will travel there to learn more.

7. Finish this sentence: Reading allows me ….
to enjoy who we are and can be, to go to new places, to learn new things and new words. Mary McLeod Bethune said that “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” I agree.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I feel fortunate to be part of Project Learn and so appreciate the tremendous work of the teachers, staff and students. Every time I go to a Project Learn graduation I am moved by the stories of students and so proud of the work they have done. B.B. King, the blues guitarist, reminds us that “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” They will have that degree and the experience of learning forever.

Swine Flu and the Repercussions of Health Literacy

A few years ago, we were shocked by the Avian Influenza, a virus that occurs naturally in birds. The virus started in Asia and people across the world were scared to eat poultry because of the potentially fatal illness.

 

Enter 2009 and the swine flu. According to the Center of Disease Control, the swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that is contagious and spreads from human to human.

 

So far, the flu has claimed more than 150 lives in Mexico and one in Texas.

 

For those who may not be able to speak for themselves or use advanced vocabulary, verbalize questions in a medical setting, or understand basic instructions without an interpreter, comprehending information related to personal or public health may be difficult.

 

In some classes, Project Learn teachers felt it was appropriate to explain the virus and potential effect it may have on the country.

 

Although many students heard about the flu virus on television, newspapers or in general conversation, some could not understand what was being discussed. They didn’t know what words like “epidemic” and “pandemic” meant.

 

This is a serious problem, especially when the general public is at risk.

 

Imagine what the consequences are for people who don’t know the importance of washing their hands after they sneeze or don’t take their medication correctly. Think about how many people could be less sick, or even cured, if they did.

 

Going beyond swine flu, this has a direct relationship with health literacy.

 

Health literacy refers to the ability to read and have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

 

One in five adults read at or below the 5th grade reading level, but most health materials are written at the 10th grade level or above. Newspapers aren’t always easy to understand either, even though some, like USA Today, is written at a 4th grade level.

 

Here are a few impediments that may make it difficult for non-English speakers or adults with poor literacy skills in developing health literacy:

  • Lack of access to basic health care due to language barriers or lack of insurance.

  • Lack of language skills. Learners may be unable to speak for themselves, use sophisticated vocabulary, formulate appropriate questions in a medical setting, or comprehend basic instructions without an interpreter.

  • Lack of awareness of U.S. healthcare culture, including what is expected of the patient and what the patient can expect of care providers (Courtesy of the Center of English Language Acquisition).

It is important that doctors, nurses, teachers and other individuals pay attention to the signs that indicate a person has low health literacy skills. By helping them understand what is needed to stay healthy, you can prevent them from engaging in activities that could harm themselves or others. (See what we’re doing.)

 

What are you doing to communicate swine flu?