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Literacy Network receives $300,000 grant to aid English language learners taking courses at MATC

November 16, 2018

The Literacy Network will receive $300,000 over the next three years to expand its programs and offer higher-level English language learning opportunities to help students transition to college.

Executive Director of the Literacy Network Jeff Burkhart announced the grant from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation Thursday and said it is the largest grant the network has received in its 44 years. With the grant money, the network will increase the number of English classes offered and to bolster personal advising to help students reach academic goals.

The program will be in partnership with Madison Area Technical College to teach English language learners who are working toward certificates or degrees at the college. The funding will be geared toward more advanced language lessons for those students, which can be personalized by tutors to address the student’s specific programs.

MATC, also known as Madison College, will be opening a new South Side campus at the intersection of Badger Road and Park Street next fall just a few blocks away from the Literacy Network’s site at 701 Dane St.

“It’s really about helping them make that transition,” Burkhart said.

The grant does not meet the total cost of the program, Burkhart said, but the network is applying for other grants and speaking with individual donors to raise the $186,870 still needed.

Students involved with the network’s current tutoring program while taking classes at MATC for a two-year period showed significantly boosted test scores and attendance rates, Burkhart said, and they were more likely to enroll in another semester than those who did not receive tutoring.

An advisory component will also be built into the program to help students who may be overwhelmed by beginning classes at a larger institution like MATC, said Autumn Jackson, director of English as a second language (ESL) classes at the network. Students involved will have an adviser to guide the students through the school year.

Steven Skolaski, president of the foundation, said that the Literacy Network deserved the hefty grant because of its long history of serving disenfranchised people.

″(The students) just need a little bit of extra help,” Skolaski said.

The Literacy Network serves about 1,000 people in Dane County each year, Burkhart said, and students in the language learning program emigrated from about 70 different countries. The classes at the network typically have wait lists with 100 names on them, but Burkhart said about 150 more could be served through the grant funding from the foundation.

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