The Parkland College Blog

Parkland College's Project READ Receives 2022 Spotlight Awards

Project READ Learners, Tutor Recognized with State Awards

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Project READ at Parkland College has won three Spotlight Awards from the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State.
 
The Spotlight on Achievement and Service Awards recognize the achievements of individuals who support the adult literacy effort in Illinois, from adult learners improving their skills to the volunteer tutors who assist and guide them.  
 
All three of Parkland’s nominated individuals received awards at a reception ceremony in Springfield on May 11. Longtime tutor Bob Kirby won the Spotlight on Service Award, and learners Doug Webb and Efrain Gaspar both won Spotlight on Achievement Awards.
 
Since retiring from his physician practice ten years ago, Kirby has never stopped caring for and wanting to help others, especially immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community through English language classes. He has shown his dedication by founding the English Second Language program at the local First Presbyterian Church, tutoring with Project READ, and hosting an “Easy English Fellowship” group every Sunday and Monday.
 
After seeing the limitations that a family member faced due to illiteracy, Kirby was inspired to begin teaching English. "With training and encouragement from Project READ at Parkland College, tutoring adults in English is something I can do," he said. "Meeting learners from diverse cultures has enriched my life, as has my relationship with the Project READ staff."
 
Learner Efrain Gaspar’s goal is to become an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Champaign, which requires a math examination, among others. Originally from Guatemala, he and his tutor Cathy Salika would focus on word problems to practice his math and English skills.
 
Gaspar has since passed the IBEW math examination. "We are all so happy to see him advance his skills and achieve the goal he has been so focused on," the Project READ staff said. "Efrain has been a tremendously dedicated learner—the model of politeness and studiousness."
 
"I have been able to achieve these goals because of Project READ’s ability to find excellent resources and volunteers," Gaspar said. "My family and I are so thankful for the help from Project READ."

Learner Doug Webb credits Project READ and his tutor Diane Terando for helping him change his life. From a self-described "non-reader" to passing GED exam portions and taking computer classes at Parkland, he and the Project READ staff are very proud of his achievements and steps forward.
 
"I used to be shy and afraid because I couldn’t talk well, and my words didn’t sound right," Webb shared in his nomination essay. "I am more comfortable meeting people now than ever before in my life. I have more confidence. The word ‘quit’ is not in my vocabulary any longer."


Project READ is made possible by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, using funds designated for literacy.

For more information about Project READ, please visit parkland.edu/projectread, email projectread@parkland.edu, or call 217/351-2580.

[from top: Bob Kirby, Efrain Gaspar, Doug Webb, with state officials in Springfield.]

Parkland College SWFT and Adult Education Center Open House

Visit the Parkland College SWFT/Adult Ed. Center Open House on April 25

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Parkland College invites community members to an open house celebrating the new Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) and Adult Education Center.

The SWFT and Adult Education Center Open House will be held on Monday, April 25 from 3-5 p.m. in the new center, room D120. Guests are invited to drop in to tour the new SWFT and Adult Education space and learn more about the programs. At 3:30 p.m., SWFT and Adult Education directors, current students, Executive Vice President Pam Lau, Vice President of Communications and External Affairs Stephanie Stuart, and State Rep. Carol Ammons will give remarks.

With Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant funds, the college has been able to expand and equip a new space for the SWFT program. The space will be co-located with Parkland's Adult Education department, with the aim to provide Adult Education learners access to more career opportunities.

"Thanks to the support of the WEI, we have been able to create a dedicated career suite to prepare our SWFT-funded students for employment," said SWFT Director Alicia Beck. "Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, this flexible learning space is already hosting weekly employment skills classes, mock interviews, and regular meetings with staff and students. We look forward to incorporating new program as the use of the space evolves."

Backed by a $1.2 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant, Parkland's SWFT program aims to help more than 130 district residents move into high-demand careers with family-sustaining wages within a year or less. The WEI grant aims address historic underrepresentation of African Americans in high-demand, high-wage careers, thus requiring African Americans to comprise 60 percent of the population served by the SWFT program. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus with strong support from State Rep. Carol Ammons.

Adult Education Associate Dean Tawanna Nickens is optimistic about the merger and the ability to help more students. "The co-location of Adult Education and SWFT streamlines resources and supports for adults as they transition to short-term career training programs at Parkland."

Parkland College's Adult Education department provides free classes, mentorship, tutoring, and career pathways for adults with little or no college or technical education. This can include English Second Language, college prep, basic skills, and high school equivalency classes. The program is funded by Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

More information about the SWFT program can be found at parkland.edu/SWFT; information about Parkland College Adult Education can be found at parkland.edu/adulteducation.

Parkland's Project READ Receives 2021 Spotlight Awards

Project READ Recognized with State Award

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Project READ at Parkland College has won Spotlight Awards from Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jessie White.

White's office announced the awards Thursday during the Spotlight On Literacy Awards for Outstanding Literacy Students and Tutors, a virtual ceremony honoring 10 volunteer tutors and 10 learners in Illinois literacy programs.

Project READ graduate Belinda Guillen received the Spotlight on Achievement Award, and tutor Linda "Penny" Lopez earned the Spotlight on Service Award.


"Two years ago, I could not construct a complete sentence in English," Guillen wrote in her application essay. "Now, I can communicate better, and it has had an impact on my life. Project READ has been very helpful to me, due to the excellent tutoring I received."

Guillen works as an outreach team leader at the New American Welcome Center for the University YMCA. She serves as a trusted link between various organizations and Spanish-speaking community members to help address their needs. 

For Lopez, the win is all about love and acceptance.

"As a team, we have added to our understanding and acceptance of the people around us," she shared in her essay. "I learn so much from my students. I am honored as they share their lives and customs. I am awed at the effort they put into learning a new language.

"It is a reason to get up in the morning and make a difference. I believe that what the world needs now is love, and understanding each other is part of that path."

For more information about Project READ, please visit parkland.edu/projectread, email projectread@parkland.edu, or call 217/351-2580.

Parkland SWFT Program Receives Funding for Second Year

The Support for Workforce Training program will be funded for a second year, supported by State Rep. Carol Ammons

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Parkland College announced today that the Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program has been refunded for a second year. In collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board and State Rep. Carol Ammons, SWFT will be able to continue to provide free, short-term training to underserved populations in the college's district.
 
Backed by a over $1 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant, Parkland's SWFT program aims to help more than 150 district residents move into high-demand careers with family-sustaining wages within a year or less. The WEI grant aims address historic underrepresentation of African Americans in high-demand, high-wage careers, thus requiring African Americans to comprise 60 percent of the population served by the SWFT program. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus with strong support from State Rep. Carol Ammons. 

“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, my most fervent goal is to increase access to education. Knowing that I contribute to tearing down the inequitable barrier of cost for so many looking to build a better future is what makes this work worth it," she said. "I have very much enjoyed watching Parkland implement its Workforce Equity Initiative put forth by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and I am proud to know they will be receiving financial support to continue this life-changing program. The Black Caucus remains committed to expanding access to education across the state and we thank Parkland for their partnership.”

Along with providing tuition, fee, and book waivers for training and stipends to help tackle higher education-access barriers, the initiative will address local workforce gaps and employment barriers in an effort to prepare skilled workers to move into employment upon program completion. Participants who are eligible and awarded funding will receive wraparound support services, such as academic counseling, career advising and workshops, and new this year is the incorporation of essential skills training.

Students may select from 14 Parkland College degree or certificate programs in four technical career categories: construction and manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and distribution, and business and IT services. Career options vary widely and include general construction and welding; office assistant, CompTIA A+, and Google IT professionals; sterile processing technician and CNA; and truck driver CDL and forklift, among others. Programs can be completed in a year or less.

Spring enrollment is underway. To begin the process, interested individuals should visit www.parkland.edu/swft.  

Those eligible for the incentives may include incumbent workers, unemployed persons, members of underrepresented minority groups, those receiving SNAP benefits and other need-based aid, recently incarcerated persons and ex-offenders, those receiving housing assistance, and others demonstrating financial need. 

The grant period began November 2020 and extends through October 2021.

For more information, please visit www.parkland.edu/swft or contact the SWFT program office at 217/353-2150.

Project READ to Resume In-Person Tutoring at Parkland College

In-person tutoring to resume on campus in the Center for Community Engagement (C-134)

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Parkland College announced today that the Adult Education program Project READ will resume in-person tutoring on campus in the Center for Community Engagement (C-134) on Wednesdays from 10am-2pm, and at the Champaign Public Library from 9:30-11:30am on Fridays. 

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is operational with select programming appropriate for a COVID-19 safety guidelines. Project READ will offer services such as: socially-distanced in-person tutoring; online tutoring support (bring your own device); learner intake and assessment; individual consultations; and practice with remote learning, such as logging-in. Tutors and their learners will be provided educational materials to take home for online tutoring or in-person tutoring at a public location. 

Project READ offers free, learner-centered ESL, Literacy, and Math tutoring services to adult learners who seek to improve their basic reading, writing, math, and English skills. Nearly one in five Illinois residents struggle with these skills—help support and improve quality of life for the hundreds of adult learners Project READ services each year by joining the community of volunteers that make this program possible.

Project READ is currently training new tutors online and facilitating online tutoring instruction. Become a tutor today! Must be 17 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have knowledge of basic math, reading, and English. Visit parkland.edu/projectREAD to get started.

For more information on free tutoring, becoming a tutor, or any other questions, please contact a Project READ team member at ProjectREAD@parkland.edu or call 217/353-2662. You can also connect with Project READ on Facebook here.

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