From TheNewsStar.com, Sarah Eddington, 4 Nov 2011.
One year after its inception, the High School Equivalency Program at the University of Louisiana at Monroe has helped educate 52 migrant workers, 12 of whom have successfully gone on to complete their GED.
ULM received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education last year for a five-year High School Equivalency Program, or HEP, which is also the only one of its kind in the state.
“The goal of the grant is to help migrant workers and their families overcome barriers and receive an education so they can move on to higher education, into the military or to a more sustainable wage-earning job,” said Georgia Sanderson, director of HEP and ULM’s incumbent worker training program.
Sanderson said the number of participants in the program is commendable considering it wasn’t until January that the program really got off the ground.
“We expect our numbers to be much larger in the 2011-2012 reporting year,” she said.
The program serves populations in 10 different parishes in northern Louisiana, including Red River, Bienville, Clairborne, Lincoln, Union, Ouachita, Morehouse, West Carroll, East Carroll and Madison parishes.
Participants are taught by employees of the Northeast Louisiana Adult and Family Literacy Consortium at its various locations across each parish. HEP is offered year-round and is intended to meet each population’s need, said Delene Rawls, curriculum coordinator for the consortium.
“What we’re realizing and have realized for several years is there are so many individuals who have a desire to improve their literacy, their language and their educational accomplishments, and not every one of those people is going to be able to come through a traditional system,” Rawls said. “That doesn’t mean they’re not capable.”
While the region’s migrant worker population may not be in record numbers, Rawls said northeastern Louisiana does have a greater need for this type of program.
“Northeast Louisiana is so rural that although our numbers may look lower, our need is even greater because we are so rural,” she said. “There is less access to the typical things that a larger metropolitan area would have.”
In the 2008 to 2009 academic year, there were 327 migrant children enrolled in school at the 10 parishes the new program now serves, Sanderson said.
The overall goal is to open up the door for migrant workers to enter into higher education, she said.
“As an institute of higher education, our goal is to educate people and sometimes we just have to start at a lower level,” she said. “The goal is if we can reach these people and afford them an opportunity to obtain their GED, that’s going to affect not only them but also their families for generations.”