Lending a hand, not a handout

It didn’t seem like much to ask. Rosemary Bonner* only wanted to read bedtime stories to her new baby granddaughter. However for Bonner, the task was nearly impossible since she only had a second grade education and could not read more than the most common words.
Her granddaughter was all the motivation Rosemary needed though, to enroll in a program sponsored by her employer. As a custodian in UGA’s Department of University Housing, Bonner was eligible to access literacy teachers and a support network so that she could learn how to read – and she would be paid for her time and effort.

There are approximately 26 students each semester who consistently attend Department of University Housing’s Adult Education program with more who drop in for classes for a couple weeks at a time. An instructor from Athens Technical College teaches classes four days a week in subject areas like English as a Second Language, computers, reading, math/life skills and GED preparation. Some employees who speak Spanish tutor others who want to learn to speak that language. The students also produce a monthly newsletter called LINKS – Learning is New Knowledge and Skills to practice and showcase their reading, writing, and computer skills.

“We want our students to succeed at whatever level they want to succeed,” explains M. Keener Scott, Associate Director for Staff Development. “We don’t impose our values on them. We just embrace their values and help them reach their goals. If they want to learn to read to their granddaughter, we help them to do that. If they want to learn to balance their checkbook, we help them do that. If they want to develop their skills further and get their high-school equivalency degree, we help them do that too.” Scott has a Ph.D. from UGA’s Department of Adult Education.

The program is offered to all Housing employees from maintenance and custodial staff to support and professional staff. They are allowed two hours during each forty-hour workweek to take classes in a dedicated adult education classroom on the bottom floor of Creswell Hall. This location also helps ease the burden for those who rely on public transportation because they are already on campus for work.

“The work release time just makes sense,” said housing director Jim Day. “Helping our employees to succeed in their personal life makes their work life less stressful. They make fewer mistakes, take less time off, and increase their productivity. The return on our investment in these employees is increased many times.”