Meet Juan M. and Tyeishia L.; Two Lives Transformed by the Parma Adult Education Program
2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years. We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months.
This week’s guest blog post comes from Nanette Penny, Communication Specialist, Adult Education Services, Parma City School District.
For more than 50 years the Parma City School District’s Adult Education Program has been dedicated to helping adult students achieve their literacy and educational goals. What began as a small program in the Parma area has blossomed into an expansive literacy powerhouse across the Greater Cleveland area. With over 30 different sites holding classes that specialize in Adult Basic Education, GED© Preparation, Workforce Training, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), English Languages/Civics Education, TOFEL Test Preparation, US Citizenship Test Preparation and College Success Workshops, Parma Adult Education has impacted the lives of thousands of Cuyahoga County residents.
Parma Adult Education students are transforming their lives through education. They are learning new skills, achieving objectives, and impacting the world. Read on for stories of real students who have succeeded in the Parma Adult Education program.
Juan is a 58-year-old veteran who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. To escape the poverty and violence around him, he joined the army at the age of seventeen and served in Panama where he was trained as a Combat Medic. After an honorable discharge, Juan returned to Chicago and embarked on a music career. He always had a talent for music, and he played as a percussionist with bands in the Latin night clubs. Although his music career was very successful, Juan became too involved with the darker aspects of night life and developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
After struggling for many years, Juan joined a church support group that helped him overcome his addictions. He played music for the church, got a job as a CNC programmer in a factory, and got married. Several years later, however, everything fell apart. He got a divorce and relapsed into drug use. He overdosed on the street and was transported to the hospital by the police in the city where he now lives – Cleveland, Ohio. He was then transferred to the Matt Talbot Inn, a rehab facility, where he completed a 60-day recovery program.
While Juan was a client at the Matt Talbot Inn, counselors saw something special in him. They told him that if he stayed sober and got his GED, they would hire him as a mentor to younger residents at the facility. In March of 2016 Juan officially passed his GED test! He has begun working as a third shift attendant at the Matt Talbot Inn and has already spoken with a representative from Cuyahoga Community College about enrolling in a Chemical Dependence certificate program. He has a deep desire to give back to his community and is grateful for every opportunity to do so.
Tyeishia, 24 years old with a two year old daughter, had lived in her car or slept on a mattress at a different home every night for more than a year because she had no money for a place of her own. She felt hopeless, stuck earning $8 an hour at a local photo shop and barely paying her bills. Unfortunately, Tyeishia lacked the skills or experience to change the pattern of living paycheck to paycheck.
But then she heard about NewBridge. Finding out about this opportunity “saved my life,” she said, adding that the fact our courses are free meant she could move toward a career without going into debt.
But her challenges did not end there. Tyeishia had trouble passing the basic skills test needed to become a student. But NewBridge made sure that she had the help she needed to overcome this obstacle. Using our free tutoring and refresher training, Tyeishia finally passed the test.
She made it clear, during the interview process, that NewBridge was a lifeline for her. “My life depends on this,” she said, as she could not support herself and her daughter on minimum wage jobs. “I need a career and I need it now.” Unfortunately, even after acceptance into the program, she still faced other obstacles. Even though NewBridge is free, she still needed to work to pay her bills and support her daughter. But doing so, as well as taking classes and taking care of her toddler, left her exhausted. According to Tyeishia, she was so tired that she had trouble staying awake during class.
But that’s where NewBridge’s supportive, nurturing environment came into play as her classmates and teacher provided her with the support she needed to make it through to graduation. “We were a family. We all loved each other, looked out for each other, including bringing food when others didn’t have it,” Tyeishia says. Also, her teacher brought her free bus passes when her car broke down so that she could get to and from class.
Tyeishia learned not only how to be a phlebotomist, but also how to be a professional, using the technical skills and workplace skills that NewBridge makes a central part of our program. Her skills only increased during the externship that NewBridge provides as part of an agreement with University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth. “I became one with the needle,” Tyeishia joked. This training and experience put her in demand and she just landed a job with the Cleveland Clinic.
Now, not only does Tyeishia have her own apartment, but she has the time to be a much greater part of her daughter’s life. Beforehand she only had the time to feed her daughter and put her to bed each night, but that’s no longer the case.
NewBridge changed her entire perspective, Tyeishia said. After our program, “I felt like I was going to be okay,” Tyeishia said, adding “I wasn’t drowning anymore.”
To learn more about Parma Adult Education Services head over to their website, www.parmacityschools.org/Adulted.