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Career and Family Pathways Projects Help the Community

Empowering the local community and providing them with the tools they need to succeed is what Career and Family Pathways is about. 

The Penn State Career Pathways and Family Pathways programs are funded through the Pennsylvania Department of Education to serve 340 learners and 30 families and offer 20 classes and five tutoring programs across the Centre, Clinton and Lycoming counties. Career Pathways and Family Pathways are currently offering five classes in the Centre County area.

Offering free GED test preparation and vouchers, English language skills improvement, college transition assistance, one-on-one tutoring, college placement test assistance and on-going personal support, the programs aim to serve the needs of the community.

These services are what allowed Anna Koller, 50s, to get her GED through Career Pathways to start pursuing her college degree in business administration. She has hopes of getting a job in accounting or human resources.

Career and Family Pathways are two programs offered through Penn State’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy.

Through its full-service, direct programs in Centre, Clinton and Lycoming counties, it is community-based programs that work with the individual needs of every learner to help them succeed.

Along with classes it also offers tutoring services to people who may prefer one-on-one training or cannot make it to the classes.

The tutoring program is run by volunteers from the community. These are people who are at least 17 years old, a resident of Pennsylvania and not enrolled in school. The tutoring-specific classes help with literacy, English language and digital skills.

Lisa McMonagle, a case manager and volunteer coordinator, runs LitCore, a partnership between the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and Penn State students in Honors English 202. The students are trained to become tutors or class aids.

McMonagle said the partnership is a great opportunity for students to try their hand at tutoring, and many of them enjoy it and decide to continue tutoring after they finish the class.

A lot of the people who enroll in the programs are working or raising families and many don’t live close to where classes are offered. Due to these recurring circumstances, the teachers work to refer learners to services within the community that can help them.

For instance, some of the learners live in rural areas with no public transportation to make it to class. The teachers from the programs have coordinated transportation services to make sure those learners still get the services they need.

Adult Education and Family Services Coordinator Emily Wolfe said they want people to be successful. Once a learner is comfortable enough to share personal details about themselves and they see another area that they can help them, they do.

“I’ve learned a lot here. I learned to be patient with myself. I learned to not beat myself up and knowledge is power,” said Sandra Ramsey, 50s, who is working on getting her GED.

Family Pathways offers slightly different services than Career Pathways. Family Pathways is for families with small children up to the third grade. This program has four components: adult education, early childhood education, parent education and interactive literacy activities.

Wolfe said the work they do is about empowering families to help them realize the strength they already have and connect them with the resources they need.

“Learning takes place everywhere,” Wolfe said.

Mike Vail, director of Career and Family Pathways, said the program is “providing service not just with the learners we work with but also for employers.” He said employers are attracted to areas that have “workable people” and that’s what they help do for the State College community.

Vail said at the end of the day it’s gratifying to know the programs helped people change their lives.

In a testimonial about Career and Family Pathways, Koller gives advice to those thinking about joining the program: “Do it now, don’t hold off, you’re never too old.”

The Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy was established through the College of Education 35 years ago. Career and Family Pathways is one out of 32 such programs in Pennsylvania with all services at no cost to learners.

For more information on Career and Family Pathways classes, contact Emily Wolfe at 814-865-7939. 

Patricia Hutchinson, recent Family Pathways graduate, and her daughter Kennedy, who is proudly holding her mother’s Commonwealth Secondary Diploma. Photo provided