Literacy Networking

Dianna Boekman, Director for the SouthernTech Empower Adult Program

1. Can you share a personal story or experience that has had a significant impact on your commitment to adult literacy?

Last school year, we had a young man with Asperger’s syndrome.  When I say young, he was 17.  His mother’s biggest fear was that he wouldn’t ever graduate high school. She was a teacher; but her son had struggled his whole life in public school. The following is her letter to our BOE (names have been changed):

My name is Brenda Everett, and I am a teacher and single mother of four. As a teacher, my children’s education has always been of the highest priority. However, after my divorce, my children suffered educational setbacks. None greater than my oldest, Jeff, who is on the spectrum. Before, Jeff was an eager learner, a self-starter, always looking for information on his own and achieving good grades in school. However, after our family changed, Jeff fell into a deep depression. He was suffering daily anxiety attacks and completely stopped applying himself in school…even being kicked out of Epic Charter School for inactivity. I was truly unsure if I would ever see the day that Jeff would graduate high school. That is until we discovered the Empower program. The people who worked with Jeff ignited in him a renewed sense of direction and purpose. He learned that though he faced challenges along the way, he still had the ability to correct the ship and find his path. He is now a high school graduate looking to start in a cosmetology program very soon. He has goals and aspirations and is looking forward to the future. All of this is because we found the Empower program and encountered all the passionate people there who are dedicated to helping young people find their path. As an educator, I have often encouraged the young people I meet in similar situations as Jeff to look into the Empower program. My hope is that it will continue to have the positive, life-changing impact on others that it has had on my son and our family. Thank you, Brenda Everett

2. How do you personally stay motivated and engaged in your work, especially during challenging times?

Our team stays motivated through working within the community to find students, clients, etc. We are involved with ABHC-Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative which focuses on Trauma Informed Care. We attend workshops hosted by Ruby Payne. The team knows that slow times mean “catch up time.”
There is never a lack of work to be done and never a lack of students.

3. Can you describe the specific programs and services your organization offers to support adult learners and promote literacy skills (i.e., ESL, Literacy, Citizenship, HSE, Digital, Health, and how they are delivered, i.e., one-on-one, small groups, classes)?

The SouthernTech Empower Adult Program offers students career-guidance, literacy, digital literacy, financial literacy and opportunities for health services. These are delivered via small group and one on one intervention when needed. We employ a phenomenal former Social Worker who assists students with removing barriers. This has proven to be effective as she provides comprehensive wrap- around services.

4. Could you share a specific success story of an adult learner who has gone through your program and achieved significant

This school year, FY24-25, we had a male student who came to apply for a full-time program. Upon enrolling for the FT program, the financial aid coordinator found that he didn’t have a high school diploma. A high school diploma is required in order to receive financial aid for FT programs. The FA coordinator walked him over to the AEFL program on campus. He signed up for GED classes and began his journey in August. This young man attended 2 programs of study from 8 am until 4 pm each day. After 4 pm, he would come to the evening GED program. After just attending for a short time, he was ready to begin testing. One by one, he took each test starting with social studies. He passed! He continued clear until December when he passed his most difficult test, Math. Not only did this young man achieve his high school diploma, but he also found a career in HVAC. This is a man who overcome many obstacles to achieve what he achieved. In his past life, he used drugs, was morbidly obese and still lived with his mother. He is truly a success story as his past didn’t define him…. his future did!

5. What is your most effective method to recruit new students?

We have found that our most effective recruitment method is word of mouth. When potential candidates apply, we ask them, “How did you hear about us?” Many students have listed that someone told them about our program. Facebook is another important recruitment tool as potential candidates see our posts and call for more information.

6. How do you keep your current students engaged so that they keep attending classes?

We keep students engaged by encouraging them and assisting them with barrier removal. The young man above couldn’t receive any PELL assistance until after he received his GED; however, the FA Coordinator found him scholarships which assisted him with his tuition util he was able to receive PELL. We continually monitor our students and reach out to them when they are gone.

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