Not too long ago, Laura and her husband had big dreams for their family, dreams they felt would never be realized because of a lack of education. Then she discovered the Family Literacy Program at Pima Community College Adult Education (PCCAE). That inspired her to join AmeriCorps, whose volunteers support PCCAE through tutoring and other services. Then she earned a GED.
Fast-forward to today. Laura, who graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson, teaches mathematics to sixth-graders in a bilingual setting. Her husband also attended college. One daughter works in private industry as an engineer. Another is on track to graduate from UA’s prestigious Eller College of Management. For one family, within the span of a generation, it has been an incredible transformation through education – a transformation that began with Adult Ed.
“Adult Education opened doors for us,” Laura says.
Stories such as Laura’s were echoed by numerous PCCAE students who participated in a roundtable discussion led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier on Sept. 11. Dr. Dann-Messier’s visit to our El Pueblo Liberty Adult Learning Center took place during the Tucson stop of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “Strong Start, Bright Future” bus tour throughout the Southwest.
It was honor to meet Secretary Duncan earlier that same day at Dodge Middle School. From his thoughtful interaction with students, it’s clear he cares deeply about the future of education in our country. Dr. Dann-Messier is equally passionate about adult education.
Prior to the roundtable at El Pueblo Liberty, Dr. Dann-Messier visited the Ocotillo Early Learning Center in the Sunnyside Unified School District, and spent some time getting to know the students and hearing about the center’s unique mission. PCC has had a relationship with Ocotillo since 1991, helping people of all ages realize their dreams by advancing their education.
The Adult Education students and alumni who spoke at the El Pueblo Liberty roundtable had much in common. They all loved their superb teachers for their compassion and competence. But what resonated most was their desire to achieve academically in order to be role models for their own children, whether their kids are toddlers or teen-agers. Joy was among the students who shared their stories with Dr. Dann-Messier. She recounted how she and her son made a pact that each would get a GED. Joy earned hers, and is now closing in on a credential in forensic technology. It was hard not to come away inspired by her determination.
Each year, PCCAE helps people like Laura and Joy and some 6,000 others take important steps toward achieving their goals through Family Literacy, Adult Basic Education, GED preparation, Civics and Refugee Education, and English Language Acquisition for Adults. (It should be noted that 70 percent of our students are between ages 16-49 – a crucial part of a competitive workforce.) As chancellor of PCC, I’m of course proud of their accomplishments, and well aware that PCC cannot keep achieving them without ongoing support at the local, state and national levels.
We’re grateful for the contributions of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, for the resumption of Adult Education funding by the Arizona Legislature, and for ongoing support from U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber. Our partnerships with the Pima County Public Library and Literacy Connects, as well as businesses, and faith-based and community organizations, are invaluable. When all the gears are meshing, we are capable of great things.
And it is crucial that all the gears do in fact synchronize. The need for seamlessness between K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions is critical. Students must be able to map out clear roads leading to whatever their education goal might be. That point was emphasized by Dr. Dann-Messier, who recognizes as I do that it is essential for Adult Education and community colleges to partner to provide clear articulation paths, and for Adult Education courses to prepare students for college or careers without the need for remediation.
PCC’s leadership is cognizant of challenges and opportunities on the horizon, and is committed to initiatives that lead to career as well as academic advancement. For me this is personal, too. When my mom came to the U.S. from South Korea, she couldn’t speak English well. The extensive opportunities available today through programs such as PCCAE didn’t exist. But her deepest wish – one shared by so many of our PCCAE students – was for a better life for her children. That came true, thanks to the power of education.