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Adult students pursue college dreams thanks to special adult learner program

7/6/2010 —
Dozens of local adults are taking the first step to achieve their college dreams thanks to a special adult learner program that helps adult students transition into college. The Adult Learner Transition Program, beginning its second year at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, is a partnership between Intermediate Unit 1 and the Fayette campus. The program promotes adult learning and helps to prepare students for transitioning into post-secondary education after time away from school.

The 30 students currently going through the program represent a wide range of ages, from 18 to 55.  The transition program offers remedial classes in math, reading and writing. A transition bridge program also is offered, which focuses on developing advanced math, reading and writing skills, as well as study skills, test-taking strategies, time management and career exploration. English as a second language and other need-specific classes are offered as requested.

Student Cheryl Frank, who has not been in school since 1975, is making use of the transition program to further her education at Penn State Fayette after losing her job. Frank says the instructors make her feel very comfortable and at ease with all of the materials. “Half of the math I learned through this program I never had in high school. I needed to be taught it again and it has been well worth it.” She plans on finishing the program in July and will pursue a degree in nursing.

Turon Johnson, who recently completed the program, received his GED when he was 16 and was not old enough at the time to begin college classes. He explains, “I went to work first, until I turned 18. The program helped me out a lot because I was not in school for a couple of years and I lost memory of some things that I learned years ago. This program brought me back up to speed in just a month.” He recommends people not to jump right into college if they have been away from school for a while, but to take advantage of the transition program first. Johnson is now pursuing a degree in mining engineering.

According to Apryl Kadish, an admission counselor for Penn State Fayette, “It is hard to jump back into classes when someone hasn’t been in that setting for a while. Most people are afraid they won’t make it and this program gives them the help they need to succeed.”

IU1’s Sue Conrady, director of Adult, Nonpublic, and ESL Education Service, and Angela Kenes, coordinator of the Adult Learner Program, are involved in developing and teaching the program at the Fayette campus. Kenes says, “We began meeting with Joe Segilia, director of Outreach and Continuing Education at Penn State Fayette, who brought in the admissions team at Penn State Fayette. We begin by first determining a student’s skill level using the TABE, the Test of Adult Basic Education. Over the first year, we refined and adapted the program.  Our program continues to grow and we are pleased that we have been able to help these adult students.”

Kadish, Segilia, Conrady and Kenes recently spoke about the Adult Learner Program partnership at two statewide conferences. They explained the details of the program and offered advice to other colleges and universities. The group also attended the Penn State University Adult Learner conference and the Pennsylvania Association of Adult and Continuing Education conference, at which they spoke about the program at Fayette. The hope is the program will serve as a model for other similar programs in the state.

Since the conferences, Kenes has been contacted and asked how the partnership with Penn State Fayette started and other details about how to start a similar program. She says, “I anticipate more and more people coming to us for additional information about the program. If other programs, similar to this one, are made available throughout the state, there will be many more adults who can benefit and make their dreams of attending college a reality.”
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