VC Adult Education students speak out in Austin

VC Adult Education Director Stacey Weaver (left) sets out to address the Texas Interagency Literacy Council with students Simon Hernandez (center) and Tracy Lopez (right).

When the Texas Interagency Literacy Council wanted to know more about the current state of adult education in Texas, particularly in regard to the impact of technology and distance learning options, they called the distance education manager for TexasLEARNS, AnneMarie Molinari, at the Texas Adult Education and Family Literacy Collaboration. They also called Stacey Weaver, director of Adult Education at Victoria College.

A number of other adult education professionals from community colleges and local literacy coalitions also agreed to attend the public hearing and testify using their expertise and experiences with their own programs. But Weaver was the only one who also brought adult education students to testify.

Tracy Lopez had not been in a classroom for more than 27 years when she began the adult education program at VC. She finished in May 2010 and immediately earned her GED. Last fall she began taking college classes on the main campus when she started in the medical coding specialization of the professional office technology program.

Lopez told the panel what a difference the distance learning options made in her ability to complete the adult education program and obtain a GED.

“When I first tried to get a GED back in 1992, I couldn’t do it,” said Lopez. “I still had a child at home, and there was only one teacher for all the subjects. But this time, I had three different teachers, and I was able to complete many of my hours at home and at my own pace through distance learning.”

Lopez also told the panel that her education means a great deal to her. As a wife and stay-at-home mother for many years, she has watched her husband work extremely hard to make a living for their family. Now, in gratitude for all his many years of hard work, she wants him to be able to rest. She wants to contribute for her family and provide the kind of benefits she and her husband will need as they grow older together.

“I admire her,” added Weaver. “She spent so many years at home, and now I think she really feels like part of the community—and she loves it.”

Weaver has observed Lopez grow more confident of herself as she went through the adult education program.

“Throughout the time that Tracy has been in the adult education program, she’s been very timid and self-conscious,” said Weaver. “But after speaking at her graduation and then learning to silence her inner critic in VC’s OnCourse student success class, she has really broadened her own horizons.”

Veteran and retiree Simon Hernandez, 67, also spoke at the hearing.  Hernandez came into the adult education offices at VC in February of 2008 unable to read and wanted to learn. Three years later, he earned his GED. Prior to completing his adult education coursework, Hernandez had never really worked on a computer. But as he took advantage of the distance learning options available through VC, he discovered that he enjoys computers so much he wants to take more computer classes at VC.

“Simon is the student who makes us look good,” said Weaver, “and he is the sweetest, nicest man. He brought us a cake to thank us for helping him achieve his goals.”

According to Weaver, both students were very nervous about testifying in front of the panel, but it ended up being a wonderful experience for both of them as they got to see that other seasoned professionals get nervous when confronted with public speaking as well.

“The panel clearly found these students’ testimony very valuable,” said Weaver. “The two students were the only speakers who received applause and after the hearing was over, a number of panelists expressed gratitude and said they were humbled by their input.”

Published: Thursday, 16 December 2010

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