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CCC’s adult education program receives additional funding

September 13, 2018

Sharan Stoltenberg is looking forward to teaching Adult Education courses with additional materials provided through grant funding from the Nebraska Department of Education.

Stoltenberg, a Central Community College instructor, teaches English as a Second Language every Monday and Wednesday evening at the Schuyler Public Library. Before the program received new funding, she said instructors struggled to provide sufficient text books for their students.

“I love people and I also value literacy and education,” Stoltenberg said.

Mary Wiegand, Adult Education coordinator at Central Community College, said textbooks can cost more than $30, which is a large expense when teachers are buying hundreds. Students previously shared textbooks and were not allowed to take them home, something changing this year one the text arrives.

Wiegand said it was tough for students to practice what they learned at home because of the lack of books, which could affect learning outcomes.

“My teachers were already excited when I told them,” said Wiegand, who is also the executive director of the Platte Valley Literacy Association. “I am already getting a list of what they need. They are beyond excited that we can get more books.”

Adult Education Director Ann Chambers said she submitted a proposal last year to the Nebraska Department of Education requesting more funding which would help with the current shortfalls. With grant passage, Chambers said the program budget is now about $500,000 – a 43-percent increase – which is being allocated for materials, as well as increasing staff pay.

“In addition to being the largest in the state, we were also the lowest paid,” Chambers said of the program.

Chambers said the program at CCC is the largest among all six Nebraska community colleges. It serves 1,785 students across 25 counties, including Platte, Butler and Colfax. The program, which provides courses on English as a Second Language (ESL), General Educational Development (GED), Adult Basic Education (ABE) and U.S. citizenship classes served more than 300 students last year in Platte County.

The majority of courses are held inside the Family Resource Center at 3020 18th St. in Columbus.

Chambers said in previous years the grant-funded program lacked funding to provide students with sufficient books and materials. It was also a challenge meeting staff salary needs. She said funds will be distributed according to the size of each program.

The program serves a large number of international college students who are interested in learning English to better prepare for their careers in the U.S.

“Most of them want to come to learn English just so they can get better skills so that they can, maybe, obtain a better job,” Wiegand said.

Stoltenberg said she currently serves an average of 13 students per session.

“I really love this job,” she said.

ESL classes are also held inside Cargill.

Wiegand said the program also prepares its students for the workforce by refining their resumes and helping them practice for job interviews. She said she strives to involve local employers in the learning process to showcase the different career opportunities available in the area, as well as introducing area businesses to students and the program in general.

“I like to get people from the community in my classrooms because it gets the community aware of what we offer and it gets my students aware of what we can offer them for jobs,” Wiegand said. “There’s more to Columbus and the area than (manufacturing) plants.”

Moving forward, Stoltenberg said she hopes to see more community members be involved with the program as volunteers. She noted the program is in need of classroom assistants and tutors.

Those wanting to enroll in the classes are encouraged to contact Wiegand at 402-562-1432 or marywiegand@cccneb.edu.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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