Tuesday September 02, 2014

Adult literacy programs boosted with grants

Secwepemc Cultural Education Society’s partner-assisted learning PAL program and Twin Rivers Education Centre’s Street School

Two adult literacy programs in Kamloops, one of them hobbled in recent years by a lack of funding, have received additional funding.

Secwepemc Cultural Education Society’s partner-assisted learning PAL program and Twin Rivers Education Centre’s Street School have each received about $30,000 from the Ministry of Advanced Education.

The funding augments a $20,000 donation from the Stollery Foundation in July that helped kickstart PAL after it languished for a couple of years without funds. The program was kept alive only through funding dribs and drabs as well as a social planning grant from the City.

“It’s not like it’s super costly, but it does address a need that, I don’t mind saying, was a surprise to me,” said George Kaliszewski, executive director of the society.”

PAL pairs learners one-on-one with volunteer tutors. It began as a program for aboriginal adult learners, but there were so many non-aboriginal learners asking for help that they opened it to all. About half of the 30-odd learners enrolled are non-aboriginal.

Some have difficulty reciting the alphabet, Kaliszewski noted. That sort of limitation can make it difficult if not impossible to hold down a job or even function adequately in a largely text-based world.

“I think the funding should be more, personally, given the amount of people, and there are few options,” he said.

Funding, through the ministry’s Community Adult Literacy Program, went to 90 community-based groups, including School District 73’s Twin Rivers Education Centre.

The centre’s Street School serves roughly 400 adult students per year, enabling about 50 a year to obtain their Grade 12 graduation.

Principal Kent Brewer said the ministry funding is key, since it enables them to hire a literacy outreach worker.

“The students we deal with at the centre, many are struggling with day-to-day existence,” Brewer said.

By providing background support, in partnership with about 40 community agencies, the worker is able to provide greater assurance of positive outcomes for individuals who may have addictions or incarceration in their backgrounds.

“She also works with students at KRCC. The first 24 to 48 hours (after release) are critical.

“It’s one of the things that really makes our program unique,” he added.

So unique that Street School recently received a national award from ABC Life Literacy.

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