Gov. Phil Scott last week signed a proclamation designating Sept. 19-25 Adult Education and Literacy Week to celebrate the accomplishments of adult learners as they gain skills and credentials necessary to move ahead in careers, further education, and job training.

More than 3,500 Vermonters have worked with four adult learning centers over the past year, including approximately 1,500 who did so during the COVID-19 pandemic. The centers serve Vermont’s most vulnerable populations and provide instruction in reading, writing, math and digital literacy

Locally, Central Vermont Adult Basic Education for more than 55 years has provided adult education and literacy services to residents of Washington, Orange, and Lamoille Counties. The organization operates out of six locations including in Waterbury at 31 North Main Street across from the town offices.

Executive Director Carol Shults-Perkins notes that the agency’s work covers a much broader spectrum than many people realize. “We are working with employers to provide specific job-training skills. We are helping people with advanced skills from other countries to learn English so that they can work in the U.S. We help people to earn a high school credential. We are teaching grandparents to use computers so that they can stay in touch with their grandkids via email or video conferencing,” she said.

Adult education is dynamic and flexible, and has evolved to meet the emerging needs of the community and the students. Central Vermont Adult Basic Education’s students are from diverse backgrounds and many are from what are considered vulnerable populations, she said.

For example, 62% are unemployed; more than 12% live at 100% of the poverty level or higher; 60% have at least one disability from learning disabilities to traumatic brain injuries; 25% are minorities; 74% have no high school credential; at least 13% receive public assistance.

“Our learners are working to overcome the challenges before them, so that they can access careers, further schooling, and gain control and independence,” Shults-Perkins said, explaining that the organization helps each student develop an individual goal-based learning plan.

Adult Education and Literacy Week recognizes the strides students have made, Shults-Perkins continued. “In spite of the barriers that they must overcome, their hard work and diligence pays off. They reach their goals and change their lives.”

Some examples of the goals students reach include gaining computer literacy or financial literacy; earning a high school credential; becoming active in their children’s education and literacy development; entering post-secondary education or job training; achieving career-skill certifications; obtaining a job or a more livable-wage job; registering to vote and voting. For immigrants and refugees, the state’s four adult education and literacy centers help English-language learners to obtain citizenship skills and U.S. citizenship, to get jobs and to assimilate into their new communities.

“Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations made the most profound statement about education,” Shults-Perkins recalled: “‘Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.’ This is precisely why [Central Vermont Adult Basic Education] is here, and we invite our entire community to celebrate the amazing successes of their friends, family members, and neighbors this [week]. This is social justice and positive change in action.”

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the services Central Vermont Adult Basic Education provides, contact the Waterbury Learning Center at 244-8765 or email Kelly Pierpont: kpierpont@cvabe.org

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