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Bringing hope to school kids sometimes means bringing hope to their parents, too.
The Center for Literacy at UIC’s College of Education offers that hope by helping parents earn a GED.
This year, the center graduated 40 parents from its program, the highest number since the program started 16 years ago. It graduated the highest number of Spanish-speaking parents who also took the GED classes, as well.
In several neighborhoods across the city, the center supports Head Start, the comprehensive federal child development program. Staffers there help the city’s low-income youngsters learn to read, but they also know that locking in success means giving parents what they need, too. So Head Start welcomes the center's family literacy programs so parents can develop their own skills while learning strategies to support their children’s early literacy development.
In most cases, what parents needed was to finish school. They left for a variety of reasons, whether because they had to work to help the family or because they didn’t have the best experience in the classroom. Then, when they had children, they often felt they were unable to read to their children at bedtime or ill-equipped to help them with homework. Often, their children were then missing the building blocks of a solid literacy foundation, which put them at risk for a shaky academic future. Staff at the Center for Literacy wanted to help stop that cycle.
So in 1996, the center launched a program to help parents pass their high school equivalency tests.
It now holds a series of workshops throughout the year in four locations on the south and west sides of the city to give parents the skills they need to pass the GED. No matter where the parents are starting out – by learning English first or cathing up on 8th grade algebra, the center offers coursework to fill in the gaps for them.
“Passing the GED often seems like a rite of passage,” said the Maureen Meehan, the center’s director. “To many it means ‘I can do this. I can succeed. I can take other courses or apply for jobs like anyone else. I’m no longer just another high school dropout.’”
When they do, the environment at home begins to change. Children witness their parents reading and writing more. When the parents do homework, the children often complete their own alongside them. The parents become literacy models.
The payoff, Meehan, added, is opportunity. For literacy. For jobs. For hope.
Visit the Center for Literacy for more information.