Contact: J. Aisha Mathews, Education@grayhouse.org
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m. M-Fri at The Gray House; 6:30–8:00 p.m. Monday & Wednesday at Holy Name Social Center in Forest Park
The Adult Education Program provides educational services to adult learners. This important program offers English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, basic skills (reading, writing and math) tutoring, beginner English conversation classes and literacy development for resettled refugees. Services are offered in one-on-one and small group settings, providing students individualized lesson plans appropriate to their learning level. During the 2015-16 academic year, 121 adult learners participated.
Volunteer tutors are crucial to the success of this program. On average, 35 individuals volunteer 1.5 – 4 hours a week. Tutor training is provided. If you are interested in being a volunteer tutor, see our volunteer opportunities or contact 413-734-6696.
Who Are Our Students?
Students ranged from age 18 to 70. Typically, about 70% of students are female and 30% male. All of the students live in poverty, just above the poverty line, or are considered at risk. While the students now live in the Greater Springfield area, they originate from over 20 countries including Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Congo, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Puerto Rico, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Turkey and the United States. Collectively, they speak at least 16 different languages. Many of the students are resettled refugees.
Why Is Adult Education Needed?
A lack of education is a key indicator of poverty. The Gray House is located in Census Tract 8006, where the poverty rate has reached an overwhelming 68%.
Of the adults age 25 and over, 53% have less than a high school education, 38% have a high school diploma or GED, and only 1% has a Bachelor’s degree or higher. This is a stark contrast to the respective State rates of 30%, 26% and 16%. These limited education levels result in alarming unemployment and income rates. Of the adults in tract 8006, 31% of are unemployed, 72% earn less than $25,000, and 68% live in poverty. Again this is in bleak contrast to the respective State levels of 7%, 7% and 20%.
In addition, 80% of the residents here speak a language other than English at home and 44% of those residents report that they speak no English at all or not well. Statistics show that education levels tend to decrease even more and unemployment rates increase for non-English speakers. Since education is key to career success and economic self-sufficiency, educational services are needed to help people learn, gain self-sufficiency and transition out of poverty.
Adult learners present a very diverse array of learning needs. Some people earned advanced degrees in their home countries and simply need to learn English. Others have never had access to education and can not read or write in their native language, let alone in English. Some people didn’t have good experiences with school and are intimidated, overwhelmed or embarrassed. All need a safe, encouraging and supportive learning environment. They need individualized attention which addresses their personal learning styles, allows them to progress at their own pace, and helps them build confidence.
What Do the Adults Learn?
Our adult learners gain the educational skills needed to survive and succeed. ESOL students develop communicative competence across the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. There is emphasis for these students to learn survival skills for daily communication, for example, being able to ask what time it is, understanding basic money terms and common greetings. ESOL students also benefit by acquiring skills that help them integrate into the community, such as learning to communicate with their child’s teacher or advocating for medical care. Our students also learn to recognize and understand cultural differences, such as eye contact, punctuality and interpersonal space.
The benefits for literacy students include developing their decoding skills, increasing sight word vocabulary and improving comprehension. Progress in these areas results in an ability to more fully understand the world around them.
In addition to acquiring educational skills, many students also improve their self-confidence and leadership skills. They better navigate the systems that surround them, leading to improved quality of life for both the learners and their families.