BRATTLEBORO -- Mary Ide has been working at the Vermont Adult Learning Center for five years and is proud of the work that the center has done in helping adult students set and reach their educational and professional goals.
"It’s nontraditional learning, an alternative path," Ide said.
While it may be nontraditional, it has been very successful. This year, VAL graduated 100 students.
As this year’s class moves on to its next stage in life, Ide herself will be leaving the learning center. She has enjoyed and valued her time there immensely. She clearly takes great pride in the work they do at the center as well as the students who pass through the center.
"It has been both exhilarating and inspirational to have worked with VAL for almost five years, and to see such great growth and innovation by the very committed and hardworking Windham VAL staff," Ide said.
Since Ide has been working there, the time spent on advising has increased, and the open lecture discussion has shifted into specific, more individual instruction.
Ide also worked with organizations such as the Workforce Investment Board, Vermont Department of Economic Services, and Vermont Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Working with these groups has allowed the students to have better workplace skills, she said.
In her time at VAL, Ide ushered in many changes and oversaw a well-working institution of higher learning. Ide was
After her work at the center, Ide hopes to remain in Brattleboro and work in historical preservation and archival work.
The Vermont Adult Learning Center provides educational and career-oriented aid to students age 16 years and older. It has been serving the community for 40 years. It is a private, non-profit organization, but the majority of the services are free to students.
The center strives to help students further their educational goals as well as their professional goals.
"We help students who want to get their GEDS, get into Community College of Vermont, and help improve their work skills, literacy, writing, math skills, and whatever else helps their job prospects," Ide said. "Students often have children at home and full-time jobs. They are under a lot of pressure to do many things at once."
This pressure is not taken lightly at the center. Its mission statement stresses respecting every student and trying to help further their education and career in order to help them live better-quality lives.
The adult students are in more difficult circumstances than average college students and need an educational plan that works with this.
Ide is the regional manager for the Vermont Adult Learning Center.
The center has offices in Brattleboro and Bellows Falls, serving anyone in Windham county. Since she has been there, Ide said that the need for hands-on academic advising has greatly increased.
"Sitting down with the individual students to decide what their short-term educational goals and long-term career goals are," Ide said. This advising helps to set a specific plan for students to follow in order for them to succeed educationally and to advance their career goals.
Ide is a member of the Workforce Investment Board.
"We do assessments for employers to help them understand if the employee has high math or reading levels. This assessment can determine if someone can do anything from physics to simple addition," Ide explained.
These assessments are as beneficial to the employers as to the students. This lets potential or current employers assess the student and see how well they can perform the tasks that the employer needs done.
Ide believes that success at the center is a broad term. It does not mean simply graduating, or even graduating at all, she said.
"Many of the students have lost their jobs, don’t have a job, have poverty issues, and/or childcare issues. It’s hard to determine a general success rate because there are so many individual factors to consider. Everyone here who makes level gains, graduates, or gets a job promotion is a success. For many of them public education didn’t work, but we did. That is a great success"
Ide said the community needs to recognize the incredible challenges these students have faced.
"I feel this graduation opens doors. We all honor their courage and persistence."
Carleen Busick will be a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the fall. She is interning with the Reformer this summer and lives in Wardsboro.