Teacher, Kami (left) with 2018-2019 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Class. The class helped 24 adult learners improve their English skills this year.

As summer turns to fall, most families with school-age children begin back-to-school preparations. The long list includes books, supplies, new schedules and more as the academic year gets underway. This annual tradition is usually associated with children who attend school to learn new subjects and master concepts that will prepare them for the future.

But not everyone fits this model. While Allen County is fortunate to have excellent academic options from pre-school through college and beyond, there are 30,000 adults without a high school degree or basic English proficiency skills; only 4% are enrolled in a literacy program. These adults are more likely to be unemployed, under-employed, impoverished or incarcerated, which can result in community challenges such as increased crime rates and decreased employment, self-sufficiency and dignity.

Consider these statistics:
– One in nine adults in Northeast Indiana does not have a high school diploma or equivalent Adults without a high school diploma are two times more likely to live in poverty.
– Adults without a high school diploma earn 42% less than an adult with a diploma. 12% of adults in Allen County live in poverty
– 43% of those in poverty don’t have a high school diploma 75% of inmates in Indiana don’t have a HS diploma
– 70,000 residents of northeast Indiana don’t have a high school diploma, nor do 500,000 Indiana residents

If you are reading this, you are one of the lucky ones. Many thousands of adults in our community struggle to read and comprehend the basic English necessary to fill out a job application, fill out forms for their children’s schools or medical records, or follow basic instructions. Literacy is key to many issues facing our community. When you improve literacy, you impact many areas: employment, public safety, healthcare, and our economy.

The Literacy Alliance works with adults to improve their literacy skills in a variety of ways: obtain a high school equivalency diploma (HSE), improve English language efficiency, and obtain job training and skills certification. When individuals succeed in these areas, area employers will benefit by having more qualified applicants for their open jobs.

Additionally, improving adult literacy impacts family literacy. Parents who struggle with reading often find that their child will struggle as well. The Literacy Alliance works to break this cycle by providing free adult literacy services in seven locations in Allen, Adams and Wells Counties and collaborating with other organizations to address these issues.

The Literacy Alliance strives to end illiteracy by teaching adults through learning centers, literacy programs, and tutoring services that empower individuals to succeed at work, at home, and in the community. TLA takes an individualized approach to its teaching, knowing that adults come with experiences and histories unique to them. In 2018, students engaged in learning spent 22,400 hours working with TLA tutors and teachers in and out of class time. Since 1988, The Literacy Alliance has helped more than 15,000 adults improve the skills they need to work, live, and raise their families. This includes the 2,000 adults who received their high school equivalency diplomas after studying with us.

How can you help? Recommend The Literacy Alliance to a potential student who needs assistance to obtain basic literacy or English proficiency skills, high school equivalency test preparation or job skills certification. Become a volunteer. Make a financial gift. If you are an employer struggling to fill jobs that require a basic high school education, refer your employees or potential applicants to us so that they can receive free services that can help them obtain employment with you or move up to a higher work classification. Contact us to learn how we can bring a high school equivalency (HSE), English For Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), or skills certification class to your organization or place of business.

You can contact The Literacy Alliance via email at info@fwliteracyalliance.org or by calling 260-426-7323.

The Waynedale News Staff
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