Gateway Technical College instructor Jo Anne Cunningham teaches a pre-GED class at the Racine Literacy Council.
BY KATIE MATTESON
“Opening the Door to Education” serves as the tagline for the Racine Literacy Council and Executive Director Steven Mussenden is excited about the new programs that will provide even more opportunities for the students who come to the council office and classrooms located at 734 Lake Ave. in downtown Racine.
Mussenden explained that in November the RLC began offering classes to students preparing to take the General Educational Development (GED) exams. An instructor from Gateway Technical College currently teaches the pre-GED classes Monday through Thursday evenings to help the students study for the tests they must pass in math, science, social studies and language arts to earn their GED certificate.
Starting late this summer the RLC will also become a satellite location to support the 5.09 HIgh School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) program coordinated by Gateway, Racine Workforce Solutions and the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin. The eight-week course offered at RLC will provide extra help for those struggling in the 20-week program for the achievement of a high school diploma awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
“We’re thrilled to work with other community partners to bring these programs directly to our students,” Mussenden said. “These new offerings definitely complement our existing programs and open new doors for those we serve.”
Other programs offered by the RLC include:
- Adult Basic Education, for students 18+ whose first language is English, but need help in reading, writing, math, spelling, digital literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, soft skills and employment skills.
- Student Tutor Entry Programs (STEPs), an entry program where tutors and students start off. Students may work one-on-one with a tutor, in a group or on a computer. Students are assessed and provided with an individual program of study, STEPs tutoring times are Tuesday, 9-11 a.m. and 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, 3-5 p.m. and Saturday 10-noon.
- Driver Education (written test only), assists adult students who have not passed the written portion of the driver exam (with a referral from the Department of Motor Vehicles).
- English Language Learners students come to the RLC to improve their English at work, communicate better in the schools of their children and become better advocates for themselves in the community. Eligible students may also choose to take the citizenship class offered three or four times each year.
Mussenden said the RLC currently serves 250 to 300 students per year. He estimated 80 percent are Hispanic and 15 percent are African-American.
About 120 volunteer tutors each typically meet with students once a week during individual or group lessons.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers and offer tutor training at the end of every month,” Mussenden said. “I’d really like to see more millennials get involved in this fulfilling volunteer service opportunity.”
The volunteers are supported by Mussenden, the only full time employee, and seven part-time staff members who provide leadership and guidance for the various programs.
Mussenden will celebrate his third anniversary at the helm of the organization in June. He’s proud of his accomplishments to upgrade the office technology during his first year, increase awareness of the program through rebranding and updating the website in his second year and expand programming during his third year.
A major part of Mussenden’s job is raising funds to support the RLC program. Jazz Kaleidoscope will return this year as the theme for the annual fundraiser, set for Friday, May 4 at Memorial Hall from 5:30-8:30 p.m. The event, which includes dinner and entertainment. will feature the Chicago Diamond Trio playing cover R&B, Jazz and Contemporary music perfect for dancing.
There will also be a 50/50 raffle, silent auction and cash bar. Tickets cost $55 per person, $100 per couple or $350 for a table of eight. Tickets are available at racineliteracy.com. For more information, call (262) 632-9495.
The RLC also receives support from the United Way of Racine County, Wisconsin Technical College System, City of Racine, Racine Dominicans and the Racine Community Foundation.