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Battenkill Business Journal

Published January 14, 2010


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.