Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CVTC, LCV Partner to Provide Valley Literacy Services

September 20-26 is Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

Article Photo - CVTC, LCV Partner to Provide Valley Literacy Services

Juli Baker, right, works with students in the English Language Learner class at CVTC in this 2018 file photo. Many students who enter CVTC’s ELL program first receive services from Literacy Chippewa Valley, which has a strong partnership with CVTC.

When Khamla Lee arrived in the United States, she spoke no English, but to function well in American society, she knew she needed to learn the language.

Khamla turned to the area’s point of entry for people needing literacy-related services, Literacy Chippewa Valley (LCV), whose partnership with Chippewa Valley Technical College is instrumental in providing Khamla and people like her with literacy-related services.

September 20-26 is Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, which seeks to raises public awareness about the need for and value of adult education and family literacy.

“One in seven people struggle with low literacy,” said Elizabeth Hart, LCV executive director. “And that could be learning English, cognitive problems, the need to complete their high school education or other issues. In Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties, that’s about 14,000 people.”

Khamla is one of those people. A member of the Khmu ethnic group in Laos, she met the Hmong man who is now her husband when he traveled to his native lands. They settled in Eau Claire.

“My husband helped me learn some English, but then I came to school, and they helped me a lot,” Khamla said. “I say things that aren’t correct, and they correct me. I understand more and learn new words.”

Khamla started at LCV, working with their English Language Learner (ELL) program for about four years. She then enrolled in CVTC’s ELL program. Sending their basic level ELL students to CVTC for furthering their skills is just one of the ways that the LCV-CVTC partnership works.

“It is very challenging for someone without English skills to adapt to life in the U.S.” said Juli Baker, an award-winning ELL instructor at CVTC. “There is no typical ELL student. Many come directly to us. They and the students who come from LCV range from knowing no English to more advanced speakers who need to further sharpen their skills to prepare for college.”

Khamla says she would like to go to college someday, but she needs much improvement for that level of communication. Still, she has come a long way with the help of LCV and CVTC.

“I have my citizenship and my driver's license,” Khamla said with a smile. “When I go to the store, I talk English and they understand me.” She also has a job, doing production work at Tess Oral Health, a dental products manufacturer in Eau Claire.

“One way we work closely with LCV is they provide tutors if the ELL students need extra help,” Baker said. “Deb Erwin from LCV collaborates with us in our beginning level class twice a week. She also administers tests.”

The CVTC-LCV partnership includes other services as well. LCV works with people on math skills, gaining their citizenship, and earning their GED, Hart said.

“We have a back-and-forth referral relationship with CVTC in these areas,” Hart said. “People needing to complete their GED are typically referred to CVTC.”

“CVTC and LCV have a great partnership that allows us to meet more literacy needs than either of us could alone,” said Holly Hassemer, dean of academic development and services at CVTC. “CVTC has top-notch tuition-free adult education options that can help individuals build their basic skills, and LCV has a network of teachers and volunteers who can help provide one-on-one support to students. Whether individuals want the individual attention of an LCV tutor or the structure of a CVTC class, together we can connect them with the experience that will help them meet their goals.”

Hart noted that much of the work LCV and CVTC do together is funded by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity ACT Adult Education and Family Literacy grants, for which they must provide detailed records of improvements the people serve are making.

Progress can be quantified through testing. It can also be seen in how the work of LCV and CVTC has improved the lives of people like Khamla Lee.

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