Posted January 30, 2012

Literacy program gives families a pathway to postsecondary education

Ryan S. Brandenberg
Felicia Smith is among the participants in a grant-funded program that provides educational and life-skill activities to help families plan their path to a postsecondary education.

For some families in Philadelphia, the idea of pursuing a post-secondary education doesn’t seem feasible. But they may change their minds after attending Temple’s “Making the Dream of College Come True” program.

The initiative, from Temple’s Center for Social Policy and Community Development (CSPCD) in partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), began this semester with a $25,000 grant received in December 2011 from the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The grant is funded in part by MetLife Foundation.

The grant will provide literacy classes — a 12-week program for 12 hours each week — for up to 30 youths and adults at CCP’s campus. If the first session goes well, the program will be offered again in the fall semester of 2012. Fifteen are expected to participate this spring.

“Family literacy is promoting the concept that the whole family can learn and work together on their education,” said Ulicia Lawrence, program coordinator of Workforce Education and Lifelong Learning Program for Temple’s CSPCD. “We work with parents who have less academics for whatever reason and with teenage siblings who might have influence on a younger child,” she said.

Over the course of their entire working lifetimes, high school dropouts in Philadelphia are expected to earn an average of $457,100. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are expected to earn 4.5 times more — a working lifetime total of $2.1 million — according to "The Tax and Transfer Fiscal Impacts of Dropping Out of High School in Philadelphia City and Suburbs," a 2009 report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

The new CSPCD program will utilize resources from the National Center for Family Literacy to provide educational and life-skill activities for families to help plan their path to a postsecondary education. NCFL, a group based in Louisville, Ky., offers family literacy programs to support parents’ and children’s educational goals.

These new activities will occur as part of CSPCD's existing adult literacy program services, which include GED training for adults and GED-to-college preparation for teenagers.

“With the grant, we’re now able to also work on the concepts of preparing for a post-secondary education through awareness, exploration and exposure. We’ll have workshops for family members about what it takes to transition to college,” said Lawrence.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in courses at Temple, including “Institutional Racism,” offered by the College of Health Professions and Social Work, and “Kids, Community and Controversy in American Schools,” offered by Temple’s College of Education.

“People who live in the community around Temple University may feel they cannot afford to attend college," said Lawrence. "Through our workshops, they will receive financial literacy to assist them with making decisions about education.”

By the end of the program, Lawrence said, participants will have a realistic view of what would happen if they moved on in higher education. She expects each family group to be able to articulate their next steps in pursuing a college degree or attending a vocational school.

CSPCD interim director Shirley Moy agrees: “We’ll be able to show people that secondary education is attainable and that they can do it."

— Anna Nguyen