Center's focus is family education


January 20, 2000|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN SHE ARRIVED here from Mexico seven years ago, Taneytown resident Martina Saldana did not speak English and could not imagine getting her high school equivalency diploma.

Then, two years after her arrival, she learned about Families Learning Together.

"I found out about it through my son's Head Start teacher," Saldana said. "When I first started coming five years ago, my one son, Jose, now 7, was only 18 months old. I would come in three times a week."

Saldana, married and a full-time mother of four, said the time she and Jose spent at the learning center together has made a difference for them.

"When I came here, I was learning the language and I had to learn it fast," she said. "My son and I would spend time together, learning together. I think that is why he is doing so well now at Taneytown Elementary School. He had a good start because of all that time I spent with him here."

Today, Saldana speaks English without a trace of her early struggles and is working toward her high school diploma through the General Educational Development program and her U.S. citizenship.

These days, when she goes to the center, she takes 1-year-old Blanca. Her other two children, Gloria, 14, and Leo, 12, attend Northwest Middle School, where the center is based.

Families Learning Together began in 1990 as a federally funded Even-Start Program, said Louise Lustig, a preschool instructor with the program for seven years.

"The purpose was to put together a family literacy program," Lustig said. "After four years, the federal funding ran out, and the Carroll County Board of Education decided to pick it up. We started out in Taneytown, but have branched to Westminster as well."

Lustig said the program has four components: adult education, early childhood education, child raising, and child together.

In the adult education component, some parents attend to get a high school diploma, she said. Others have their high school diploma but want to work on basic skills.

"We had one parent come to us because she had a son in middle school, and she didn't feel she could help him with his homework," Lustig said.

According to Barbara Vrany, another family literacy instructor, ages of the adults range from 17 to 45.

"They are usually females in their 20s," said Vrany, "but we do work with some men as well. Many of our families come to us because they want to get a high school diploma."

Vrany said the program works mainly from Northwest Middle but also is at Robert Moton Elementary School in Westminster.

Many times the program goes to students' homes.

Diana Beal, a family literacy instructor, said that while the center in Taneytown is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and from 3: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, she has been spending most of her time at students' homes.

"A number of families don't have transportation," Beal said. "Then I go to the home at whatever time is best for the family."

Vrany said she estimates the program works with about 50 families each year.

Linda Jones of Taneytown said she went to the program because she had a reading problem.

"This helps me a lot," she said. "And I have three children, one of whom is of reading age, and so we work together."

Another woman at the center that day was Taneytown resident Darlene Orellana. Her goal: to get her high school diploma.

"I just want to make sure I get it," she said with emphasis.

Vicki Robertson of Hampstead said she received her GED through the program in June.

"I loved that program," Robertson said. "I have children ages 9, 8 and 7. The program has taught me so much. It has helped me to help them with their schoolwork."

Another woman also praised the program, calling it the "best thing Carroll County could have come up with."

"This is a really good program," said Denise Fackler. "I didn't have to worry about night school. And they would send a teacher out to my home, and an activities person did things with the children. I was a high school dropout and I finally just received my GED. My dream was to get my high school diploma, and I proved I could do that."

Added Kathy Frye, "It's a good program. I got a lot out of it. And they did activities with my children."

Going once, going twice

Runnymede Elementary PTO is planning its first PTO auction at 4 p.m. Feb. 5 at the school.

"We wanted to do some fund-raiser that was different than what the other schools were doing," said Randy Ripley, PTO president. "I really don't know what to expect."

Ripley said donations would be welcome, especially from businesses. Some of the donations include a romantic night at Antrim County Inn in Taneytown, a basket of homemade canned goods and movie passes. Information: 410-857-4734.

Lions Little League

Registration for Taneytown Lions Little League will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow and Jan. 28 at Northwest Middle School in Taneytown.

Registration also will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 29, also at the middle school.

Five levels of league teams are offered, said Wanda Melvin, who is coordinating the effort.

"We have T-ball for boys and girls ages 5 and 6; instructional for boys and girls 7 and 8; minors for boys and girls 9 and 10; majors for boys and girls 11 and 12; and juniors-seniors for boys and girls ages 13 through 18," Melvin said. "We usually have about 400 people sign up."

Information: 410-876-9957.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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