Watertown Daily Times | New adult literacy zones opening in…

Helping St. Lawrence County residents who lack a high school diploma prepare to take their general equivalency exam is just one goal of two new adult literacy zones that soon will open in Ogdensburg and Massena.

Adults enrolled at the literacy zones will be able to take job-related training classes at the same time they’re taking adult basic education classes offered by the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

That will put them on a faster track to enter the workforce, according to BOCES officials. In the past, adults had to first obtain a general equivalency diploma (GED) before they could advance to BOCES’ workforce-related classes.

“The vast majority of people who come to us see more value in something connected to a job than they do in obtaining their high school diploma,” said Jane S. Akins, BOCES’s director of career and technical education and adult education. “By combining it, the target is being hit for both things in one way.”

The Massena literacy zone is housed in rented space in the lower level of the Massena Public Library, 41 Glenn St. The Ogdensburg site is in a separate BOCES building on the Northwest Career & Technical Education Center campus, 1000 Park St. Classes are scheduled to start Jan. 22.

The program is open to people 21 or older who lack a high school diploma. It’s also open to county residents who are enrolled in the county’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. For more information, or to register, call 1-888-360-7693.

The program’s options include an eight-week workforce course called “Introduction to Human Service” and gives students the chance to explore careers including teaching assistant, medical administrative assistant, phlebotomy technician, nurse assistant and medical assistant.

“It can very directly provide them with credentials for direct support positions at places like United Helpers,” said David M. Evans, program manager for BOCES adult education and workforce development.

Students can also access individual and small-group counseling to help them develop academic and career goals. Instruction is given related to job-search skills, time management and study skills.

Different academic-related programs are available depending on how students score on reading and math entry-level exams.

Mr. Evans said according to the most recent census data, an estimated 11,000 of St. Lawrence County’s 110,000 residents aged 18 and older lack a high school diploma. About 300 to 350 in this category are now served by BOCES adult programs.

“The goal is to be able to reach more community members who come from that population,” he said. “We know many of the working poor don’t have a high school diploma and they’re unemployed at a higher rate than other populations.”

The new literacy zones are being funded through a three-year federal grant awarded to BOCES. The funding is funneled through the state Department of Education and the grant can be extended for two years.

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