Bridge to College & Careers changes lives

Tutorial Center Achieves Success through Educational Diversity

Battenkill Business Journal

Published January 14, 2010

By ASHLEY M. FRANK

Jan Bopp and Tutorial Center Bridge to College StudentsThe Tutorial Center and the people behind it have made it their goal to support and encourage a diverse and rapidly growing list of educational needs in Bennington County and beyond.

Its two learning centers, located on Pleasant Street in Bennington and Richville Road in Manchester, have helped students from kindergarten through adult education by supplying them with necessary skills whether it be learning how to read, conquering math anxiety or preparing for college examinations.

The center’s current capabilities are an impressive leap from its Bennington beginnings in 1971, when three instructors worked with about 10 students with the assistance of a small grant.

Now in its 38th year, the two branches employ nearly 30 full-and part-time instructors and serve roughly 1,000 students of all ages annually.

Both the original Bennington learning center and the Manchester location, which opened about 14 years ago, are “flat-out busy,” according to Jack Glade, director of the Tutorial Center. This is in a large part due to the organization’s willingness to adapt and accommodate residents.

“Anyone who has an educational need should give us a call,” said Glade. “That’s what we’re here for.”

As the state-designated adult-education provider for Bennington County, The Tutorial Center offers three avenues for a high school diploma or its equivalent: GED (General Education Development) preparation and testing, which is a high school completion program, in which participants can take necessary classes to receive a high school diploma; and the Adult Diploma program, which is based around “real life” applications and competencies.

One of the major benefits of these programs is the staff’s knowledge and readiness to help find the right fit for each individual. For those who have already earned a high school diploma or GED, there is the award-winning Bridge-to-College program.

A partnership with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) in Bennington, the program is designed for adult students interested in higher education, but not quite ready for it. Perhaps a student is worried about re-entering the classroom or would like to brush up on a few things before taking on college-level work.

Classes are held on the CCV campus. The program, which tends to have between 10 and 15 students every semester, boasts high success rates. More than 200 adults have participated to date.

The organization has also seen great successes with its English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Like Bridge-to-College, these courses use immersion as a learning tool, and have proved so effective that local employers, such as manufacturing company Plasan, have contracted classes that can be tailored to their employees’ needs.

The sessions are structured so that the students can get exactly what they need, and result in an improvement in on-the-job communication and a personal, productive experience.

The format and flexibility of these ESL sessions has been transferred into other areas of opportunity, particularly technology. “There was a real community need for workshop-oriented classes,” said Glade, and The Tutorial Center has helped to fill the gap.

There are classes that tackle basic and general computer skills and more specific programs such as Microsoft Excel or QuickBooks. In late 2007, the Manchester office began running a popular series of digital photography workshops. Some people attend for fun; many others are self-employed or small-business staff, and see these workshops as opportunities to build or strengthen business-related skills.

In addition to technology classes, instruction is offered in more general areas like math in the workplace.

“A downturn in the economy always increases the demand for education, and right now is no exception,” said Glade. “People who have been laid off or are looking for work often need to build or strengthen their skill sets, and here is a great opportunity to do that.”

The Tutorial Center also has a wide range of possibilities available to younger students. Area high schools refer students who might benefit from the center’s flexible, but closely monitored atmosphere.

These students often work one-on-one with instructors, earning a diploma that previously may have seemed out of reach. Afternoons find every room filled with young students looking for assistance or enrichment. They prepare for SAT and ACT, the college entrance exam; seek extra support in a subject they may be struggling in; or take advantage of personalized discussion and feedback in areas they would like to concentrate on.

“We are a full-service center and offer the complete range of education: remedial, enrichment, core-skill work,” said Glade.

As a successful and valuable nonprofit with balanced funding, Glade said that at the national level, The Tutorial Center is seen as a “model for what a community educational center can be: we serve all pieces of the community, are financially sustainable and responsive to what is needed.”

For more information, call the center’s Bennington office at 802.447.0111, or the Manchester office at 802.362.0222.

Summer Tutoring Helps Avoid Vacation Skills/Memory Slump

Keep your child connected during the break. Recent studies show that over the summer, your young student can lose lots of momentum, facts, skills, and motivation! These same studies also show that just as little as an hour or two a week of tutoring over summer vacation can exponentially reduce the student’s Fall semester start-up curve and help her/him hit the ground running!

We can help with any subject, any grade. Our experienced tutors will help with skill building, subject knowledge, study skills, motivation, and year-end test-taking. You can sign up for as little as 1 hour a week for a few weeks or as much as you want.

Don’t let the summer slip by and your student lose what he learned over the last year. Call us in Bennington at 447-0111, or in Manchester at 362-0222.

Bridge to College Alumni: Ashley Cunningham

  • rockstar_ashleyCompleted Bridge-to-College Program Fall Semester 2007
  • Enrolled in college courses at Community College of Vermont – Bennington as part-time student, Spring Semester 2008 through Fall Semester 2008, as married mother of three children with part-time employment
  • Awarded A.A.U.W. Scholarships for Female Non-traditional Students both Spring and Fall Semesters 2008
  • Became full-time college student at CCV Spring Semester 2009

In her own words:

I had my first child at the age of 14. Not knowing where to turn, I went to Sunrise Family Resource Center for family development support. While participating in their educational program for teen parents and moms-to-be, I was fortunate to take part in an activities-based reading series called the “Tell Me a Story Project” provided by The Tutorial Center. That project taught us how to interact with books and with our children. We read aloud and acted out the children’s books that we would read with our children. We also did hands-on activities and neat little art projects about the books that we could do with our children as their first teachers. My child loved it!

After I graduated with a high school diploma, I didn’t feel as if I was ready for college yet. So once again not knowing where to do, I went to The Tutorial Center and asked if I could go back to school: “ha ha,” as crazy as that sounds. The interviewer looked at me and told me that I was talking to the wrong person. I needed to be talking with Jan Bopp about the Bridge-to-College Program. I was nervous, but agreed. In came Jan (the Tell Me a Story man) and we started talking about the transition program and how it would help me get ready for college-level classes and how to be successful in college. For some reason I trusted him. It sounded like he knew his stuff; and what did I have left to lose, nothing, only something to gain.”Only to gain” was right.

While I was in Bridge-to-College, I not only received the help I asked for, but much more. I gained a wide knowledge base covering all academic basics and a family of fellow students. Everyone in our program group was absolutely wonderful. We all got along and felt comfortable with each other and the staff right away. I can’t even express how much I gained from this program. If the Bridge-to-College had not been available, I’m not sure where I would be right now. I don’t even want to think about that.

I graduated from Bridge-to-College and am currently working full-time on an Associate’s Degree in Business. I have 30 credits as of Spring Semester 2009, and will have one full year ahead of me to complete the requirements for my degree.
Thank you so much, Tutorial Center, for having made this opportunity available. To anyone else for whom this chance comes along, take it. You will not regret it.

Bridge to College Alumni: Lisa Skowron

rockstar_lisaskowron

  • Completed two-semester Bridge-to-College Program Fall Semester 2007
  • Attended Senator Leahy’s 14th Annual Economic Opportunity Conference for Women (Official photo with the Senator)
  • Awarded Bennington Business and Professional Women Scholarship for Non-traditional Female Students 2007
  • Awarded A.A.U.W.–Bennington Scholarship for Non-traditional Female Students January 2008
  • Won Honorable Mention Award and $50 for poem entry to WeLEARN
  • Continued college course at CCV-Bennington, Spring Semester 2008

In her own words:

I am a recent graduate of the Bridge-to-College Program and I am writing to share with you the experience I had participating in the program.  There are so many aspects of the Program that surpassed my expectations when I entered the program that I don’t know where to begin.

I was referred to the program by my sister, who was a first-semester graduate. I was very reluctant about joining the program due to the fact that I had an overwhelming fear that my accomplishments in life would not be “college” worthy.  After all, I had been a homemaker and mother and had not participated in any formal schooling for over ten years.

The opportunity of having mentors and guest speakers available to speak during the program opened up a doorway into the community for networking and invaluable resources that do no seem available to a person because they don’t know how to access them.  This important aspect of the program allowed a flow of communication not only amongst the presenters and the Program students, but the students in the Program and the college staff as well.

I can not express how much I valued the college field trips and that I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the 11th Annual Vermont Women’s Economic Conference on November 3, 2007.  I met Senator Leahy and participated in invaluable workshops there.  I took the information and knowledge I gained from this experience and passed it on to my twin teenage daughters. Because of what I have learned I feel more confident personally and feel that I am able to educate them on the importance of being a financially secure woman.

My only “problem” with the BTC Program is that funding should allow for it to run longer.  Even though some student could stand on their own when it was time to cross that bridge from BTC to college, there were some of us who definitely needed to work longer on some aspects of the foundations of learning.  Non-traditional students are coming from all different life circumstances and different learning styles, and I feel people in transition need more time before they are ready to walk that bridge.

However, the BTC Program work gave me that confidence and eased my anxiety, because I was walked through each step.  My hand was held when needed and let go when I needed to cross the “Bridge to College.”  Therefore, I walk away from the Bridge-to-College Program with invaluable knowledge and resources.  Without this Program I would have not had access to such resources for financial reasons and I would have let anxiety and self doubt stop me from furthering my education as I had let it so many times before.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Bridge to College Program.