Basic skills classes make life easier Students see courses as offering second chance

March 14, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Norma Long dropped out of high school after she finished the 10th grade without knowing how to spell "colossal" or "suspicion."

Now, the Pasadena mother of two can spell those and many other words without hesitation, thanks to free adult basic education courses offered by Anne Arundel Community College.

"I knew I wanted to be here," said Mrs. Long, 53, who was reading a short story yesterday at Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie. "I'm so grateful to them."

Arundel Center North is one of 30 sites in the county contracted by the college to offer classes in reading, writing and mathematics to about 1,000 students, said David Croghan, assistant director of the school's Basic and Operational Skills Programs.

The programs provide students with the opportunity to earn a General Educational Development (GED) diploma, learn English as a second language, or improve literacy, Mr. Croghan said.

"Those types of skills are important to everyday life making a decision in the store, working on personal finances, interpreting leases," he said. "It's a way of life, and learning those skills affects that way of life."

Residents enrolling in the programs are asked to take diagnostic tests to evaluate their needs. Then, they are grouped with others with similar needs to raise the comfort level and diminish feelings of humiliation, said Greg Orosz, a part-time instructor at Arundel Center North.

"They see that they're not alone," Mr. Orosz said. "Once they see that it's a shared experience, it makes them feel comfortable."

A $189,500 Adult Basic Education federal grant received last year pays for materials and salaries for part-time instructors.

Although program administrators could have charged students fees for the classes, Mr. Croghan said that would have contradicted the mission of the community college.

"We feel it's a service that the community needs," he said. "This school has the notion that the community college serves the entire community, not just people who can access higher education."

People such as Mrs. Long, who dropped out of Glen Burnie High School because her parents failed to stress the importance of school.

"My parents never pushed education," she said. "In the back of my head, I knew something was missing."

Mrs. Long, who heard about the classes from a friend, said she knew she had to enroll after her children grew up and left home. "Truthfully, I have never read a book in my life," she said. "I said, 'Now, it's Norma's turn.' "

Lynette Elliott, 44, of Severn said she attended the classes because she could not form complete sentences and was too embarrassed to write letters to her friends in other states.

"I always wrote a short note or called because I couldn't write well," said Mrs. Elliott, the mother of two children. "Now, I'm writing good sentences with capitals and punctuation."

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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