Life-Transforming Adult Education

Photo by Gloria Nevarez-Leslie

According to the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, 700,000 adults could benefit from literacy services in the state. As a result, those adults could gain higher paying jobs. A study by the Milken Institute showed that nearly two-thirds of all jobs today require literacy proficiency beyond skill level two, while only half of Doña Ana County adult residents are at or above this level. In the county, the rate of illiteracy is high and for residents to compete and gain higher paying jobs there is a need to improve their literacy and workforce skills. 

For the past 45 years Dona Ana Community College (DACC) Adult Education (AE) has fulfilled that role throughout the county in Las Cruces, Chaparral, Hatch, Sunland Park, and Anthony. All adult education classes are offered free of charge. The positive effect of adult education in the county has been life changing for students who pursued and attained high school equivalency and advanced degrees that have lifted them from poverty and provided a better quality of life. 

The program provides students certificates and training in seven different areas. 

  • Adult education classes in English leading to a High School Equivalency certificate 
  • Workplace education and literacy activities 
  • Family literacy 
  • English language acquisition 
  • English literacy  
  • Civics training
  • Workforce Preparation

A college preparatory course is in development. 

Many programs help with special circumstances and the unique needs adult learners have, including students like Ana B. Peña de Soto who was born in Cuauhtemoc, Mexico and moved to the U.S. in 2004.  She attended classes, passed her GED in 2008 at DACC and earned two associate degrees at the community college in general education and public health. Pena de Soto continued her education at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and was an outreach coordinator for a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating health disparities and poverty. She was selected as a DACC Outstanding Alumna in 2014.

For every AE student a pathway is developed that leads to opportunities to attend college or attain a livable-wage career.  A profile is created for each student based upon personal education and career goals that can be realized within one to two years. Additional goals can be created based upon a student’s needs and desires. Many times one person can inspire others to take the first step in gaining an education.

The Salazar family from Sunland Park is an example of peer pressure in a positive way.  Lizet Salazar first came to AE to inquire about the English as a second language and high school equivalency programs. She wanted her son Luis to finish high school and learn English. She and her son both enrolled in classes. Lizet was the first to earn her high school equivalency certificate followed a month later by Luis. Lizet’s husband Alejandro was next to enroll and graduate followed by nephew Cesar who along with Luis earned associate degrees at the community college and then attended and graduated from NMSU.

 “We are here to help all students, no matter their age or circumstances,” said Deb McCormick, Director of AE at DACC. “We have centers located throughout the county and have programs that can be catered to the specific education and career goals of any learner.”

The AE program also works with businesses, state and local groups in the community to provide special opportunities and assistance training. Much of the funding for AE comes through the state from a federal grant. Starting this year AE will work more closely with businesses and economic development agencies to ensure the workforce in Doña Ana County has the skills, certifications and endorsements they need to succeed in the workplace and in life.

The first step to accomplish success can start with an equivalency examination which assesses skills and knowledge that compares to a high school graduate. Training to prepare students for an equivalency examination, is offered at any of the learning centers throughout the county and all trainings are offered free of charge. 

Summer 2017


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