More than GEDL BISD ACE expands programs, reach

April 7, 2019

There’s more to Adult Continuing Education these days than getting ready for the GED, although that’s still an important part of what BISD ACE does at 708 Palm Blvd. and throughout Cameron County.

BISD ACE receives the first part of its name by virtue of the Brownsville Independent School District being the fiscal agent for Adult Continuing Education programs in Cameron County. It partners with school districts across the county and is part of a consortium of adult education service providers including Texas Southmost College.

The program receives funding through the Texas Workforce Commission in the form of a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant. The grant for 2018-2019 is $1.57 million and renewable for up to five years.

Because the funding source is the TWC and not the Texas Education Agency as was previously the case, the program is able to offer bilingual GED instruction. Under TEA, all instruction had to be in English.

“There’s a big misconception in the community that we are the same sleepy program we once used to be, but a lot has changed in five years,” said Debbie Alford, BISD ACE administrator. “We’re a federally funded grant and the grant has targets."

Alford said the main target is for BISD ACE to serve at least 1,800 students in Cameron County. Sub-targets are built into the grant, among them to teach integrated English literacy and civics education.

This is the bilingual GED, a class for English language learners, including professionals with degrees and credentials in their native countries. The goal is to place these students in non-subsidized employment in existing and emerging industries that leads to economic stability.

“We’re teaching them English and preparing them for high school equivalency instruction, Microsoft Office and soft skills to prepare them for employment,” Alford said.

Andreia Mattos, who worked in human resources in her home country of Brazil, said she’s in the program to improve her English, get certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist, and get a job.

“The main goal is to get them certified in the four programs of Microsoft Office, Word, Power Point, Excel and Outlook,” said Patty Guerero, who team teaches the bilingual GED course with Eleazar Sauceda. Both are certified to teach GED and English as a Second Language. The program will help students looking for a job, as well as help those with a job to advance, she said.

Alford said she will split up the two teachers next year to grow the program.

Another student, Margarita Mata of Matamoros, has her degree in industrial relations. She is looking to improve her skills and move her career to this side of the border. The soft skills assistance in resume preparation is a big help, she said.

Cecilia Beltran, a Matamoros dentist, said the program helped her with her English and to pass her U.S. Citizenship test. One component of the program is U.S. civics instruction. She took the oath of U.S. Citizenship two months ago in McAllen, she said.

Alford said many students come to BISD ACE for ESL and GED instruction but end up getting Microsoft Office certification, or as a Certified Nursing Assistant through the partnership with TSC.

BISD ACE also partners with Youthbuild Brownsville to offer certifications in the building trades while students earn their GED.

“We no longer say we’re a GED program,” Alford said. “We do high school equivalency training in preparation for the GED, the HiSet and TASC, which are equivalent to a high school diploma. ... Yes we have to meet targets, but we have to help people. It’s about helping people get to work. ”

All programs are free and registration is ongoing throughout the year. To learn more about BISD ACE call (956) 548-8175 or visit 708 Palm Blvd. or www.acebisd.weebly.com