Giving adult education a voice

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

 

When 34-year-old Ana Chavarin found out she was pregnant at 15, her hope of furthering her education came to a halt.

With the weight of a baby on the way, Chavarin dropped out of high school.

“I always wanted to return, but I was busy being a mom,” Chavarin said.

In 2009, Chavarin was the victim of a violent crime.

Following the crime, she began to notice the lack of therapists and counselors for Spanish speakers.

“I decided I wanted to become a psy- chologist to help other people who have been through the same experience,” Chavarin said. “I felt that I could be of help since I’ve been there and I know exactly how it feels.”

Chavarin felt that she would be a valuable asset, because she could approach both the English- and Spanish-speaking communities.

“I felt it was something I could do since I understand the process, the pain and the language.”

In 2012, the Coalition on Adult Basic Education helped Chavarin begin the process of earning a GED.

COABE assists adults lacking a high school diploma or English language skills to advance their education and employment.

“Not all students approach educational success via the same path,” said PCC spokes-woman Libby Howell. “Some require assis- tance in learning English, and some have not yet achieved a high school diploma.

“Pima Community College’s Adult Basic Education for College and Career programs provides a necessary jumping-off point for these students to be suc- cessful, not just in a college setting, but also in the workplace,” she said.

Through COABE, PCC students are provided with literacy, numeracy, professional develop- ment and problem-solving skills for postsecondary education and employment.

“If you think about it, students acquire the language, better skills to communicate and they have a better possibility to get a better job,” Chavarin said. “Or to get a job because now they can pass an interview because they speak the language.”

Chavarin recalls how COABE has helped fellow adult education students advance their careers.

“Some of the people I knew wanted to be a supervisor but they needed a GED,” Chavarin said.

According to Chavarin, the individuals ended up becoming supervisors once acquiring their GED.

In Chavarin’s case, she struggled with the jobs she had prior to continuing her education.

“I had always had low-paying jobs cleaning and dishwashing – you name it,” she said. “Thanks to adult education, I’m now getting a better wage.”

Currently she is in the process of earning her associate’s degree in psychology from PCC. Chavarin is looking to transfer to the University of Arizona next year.

INCREASING AWARENESS

In order to increase its scope on adult education, COABE launched a student engagement initiative.

On July 10, Regina Suitt was named the lead chair of the student engagement initiative at PCC.

“We have always valued student engagement within adult education at Pima,” Suitt said. “Students are adults and they bring these great skills and experiences with them and we value it. We learn a lot when we engage with our students.”

The new initiative is aimed at helping adult education students to connect their education with their personal lives.

“Adults learn best when they learn how what they’re learning in class can be applied to their life,” Suitt said. “We want them to persist so they can stay with us long enough to learn something.”

Adult education students sharing their stories with the community is also an important component.

“I have personally seen when students advocate for themselves and tell their stories, they get this con dence,” Suitt said.

The hope is for students like Chavarin to share their stories to inspire and teach policymakers about adult education.

“It’s all about providing the help for students to achieve their academic goals and also helping them in life,” Chavarin said.

INSPIRING OTHERS

COABE reaches students in their community by establishing trust and promoting student leadership, service learning and

volunteerism.
“Our adult education folks

keep the college closely connected to the community that we serve,” Howell said. “Investing in adult basic education is critically important in terms of both equity and economic growth for our community,”

Chavarin serves an ambassador for adult education.

The ambassadors meet with elected officials annually in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

“We talk to them about how it has changed our lives going through adult education and how we became leaders in our com- munity,” Chavarin said.

Chavarin’s passion lays in helping adult education students to meet their goals.

“Once you get to Pima, the staff is friendly,” she said. “They want you to succeed.”

“They have a lot of help so you’re not alone. You’re with a group of people that want you to reach your goal.”

In 2012, Chavarin began volunteering with the Women’s Literacy network through Literacy Connects.

The program was designed for women to be tutored by women.

“For us that got a GED, we were tutoring women to women from younger to newer people trying to get a GED,” Chavarin said.

Connecting with her community through adult education resulted in Chavarin taking on a job as a community organizer to help others in need.

“It’s sad learning that students couldn’t come to school because they didn’t have bus passes,” Chavarin said. “That they got sick and don’t have health insurance, and instead of taking two or three days off it’s the whole week, since they don’t have access to medications. Those students are struggling to eat because they don’t have food in their home.”

Chavarin hopes her positive experience with adult education will inspire others to consider going back to school.

“Please just try it. You’ll never know if you can make it until you try it.”

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