|PHARR, January 29 - Thousands of parents in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo area will now have the ability to further their education through the efforts of PSJA ISD and South Texas College.
The two institutions are joining forces to make an impact in the community, according to school coordinators.
An unveiling for a new computer lab aimed at developing the ability of parents to both speak English and help them complete their high school diploma, took place on Jan. 27 at the Pharr Parental Literacy facility. The labs will open for all parents next week.
“There are so many people, thousands of parents that do not know how to speak English or who have a GED,” said Olivia Benford, PSJA ISD Parental Engagement Community Coordinator.
“Of course we need to educate the community, especially the parents who are the role models. It’s all about student success that, if the student sees the parent learning and going to school, then the child can see them by modeling.”
On Jan. 1, 2014, GED Testing Services throughout Texas changed traditional testing to a computer-based one. As a result, PSJA ISD in conjunction with South Texas College unveiled its first computerized GED and ESL classes for parents. STC has introduced its new ESL program called “Tell Me More”, which is aimed to not only help develop parents English speaking ability, but also assist in developing their computer skills at the same time.
Every class is two hours. Parents spend 40 minutes in the lab, and then an hour and 20 minutes in the classroom.
“STC has provided a computer curriculum. What we are going to do is serve two purposes,” Benford said. “We are going to teach them the lesson in the computer, the English lesson, and then the other part is, they’re learning how to use the computer because a lot of them don’t have computers. At the same time they are learning the English language, they are learning how to use the computer because they are also taking GED classes.”
PSJA ISD has three parental multipurpose literacy centers located in the tri-city area of Pharr, San Juan and Alamo. The centers are located in refurbished schools housing more than 1,300 parents enrolled, and more than 2,370 on a waiting list.
Students receive two hours of instruction twice a week for each class they are enrolled in. Presently, the district is offering GED, ESL, welding and auto mechanics classes. In February, it will begin the second phase by offering parental literacy classes combined with citizenship, computer technology classes, instruction in nutrition, sewing and arts and crafts.
“Our curriculum is a learning tool for people at different levels,” said Isaias Ledezma, coordinator for South Texas College Continuing Education in reference to the ESL computer labs unveiled Monday.
“It’s a very important tool we have purchased at STC and since we have a contract with PSJA, we offered it to them for free,” Ledezma said. “Now, even the GED (classes) are computerized, and a lot of these people don’t know how to use a computer. They are learning just by being here.”