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Meet IU13 Community Education Alumni

Meet Zach

Attending college, supporting his community, and more!

As a recent college graduate, Zach was looking for training programs that not only appealed to him but also offered job advancement opportunities. He attended Word of Life Bible Institute and received a two-year certificate, which he planned to use to help his local church and his community. He wanted to do more, however, so he researched other fields that would work well with the certificate he already had.

He finally decided to pursue a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), as his grandfather, father, and numerous friends and family members had worked as truck drivers. A CDL license would allow him to help people move in and out of homes and apartments, take local and on-the-road jobs, and be home on the weekends to serve in his church.

Through his church, Zach learned about IU13 Community Education and reached out to start the licensing process. IU13 staff enrolled him in CDL training, providing the necessary resources. “The people I worked with along the way have been greatly helpful and supportive of me from start to finish,” Zach said. “IU13 allowed me to get the training necessary to pursue my desired careers.”

Zach completed an entry-level driver training course in March 2022 and is now the proud holder of a Class A Commercial Driver’s License.

Watum

Meet Watum

Immigration, learning English, and more!

Watum Njangu was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2003, his parents moved to Uganda because of war. As a refugee, he faced many challenges, including lack of education.

When he came to the United States in 2018, he joined an English as a Second Language (ESL) class to improve his English. After a year of ESL instruction, Watum transitioned into high school equivalency classes and earned his GED in June 2021. During that time, he connected with staff at CareerLink for assistance finding employment and learning about training opportunities.

Today, Watum works at Lancaster General Health and hopes his story will encourage anyone who’s interested in learning English to reach out to IU13.

 

ThanamasMeet Thanamas

Learning a new language, continuing her education, and more!

After arriving in the United States from Thailand, Thanamas Rugaber enrolled in High School Equivalency (HSE) classes with IU13 Community Education. Since English is her second language, she had to spend a significant amount of time outside the classroom studying for the four subject tests. Thanamas notes that sometimes her classmates were discouraged with their progress. “When I heard them say, ‘I don’t think I can make it!’ I told them, ‘Look at me! To read just one page, I have to look up a lot of English words that are new to me, but I don’t give up…so keep fighting, you can do it!’”

Indeed, in less than a year–and during a pandemic–Thanamas passed all her GED tests. She gives credit to her teachers and to her classmates, for helping her in class and for giving her a better understanding of American life and culture. She says, “I felt really comfortable talking and helping students. I appreciate that teachers worked really hard to help all the students. They found the best way to help each student and gave me helpful things to study on my own, which I used during the quarantine.”

Thanamas is now a student at HACC in the healthcare administration program, a two-year degree. Upon graduation, she may continue her education to earn a bachelor’s degree or immediately enter the workforce. We applaud Thanamas’s perseverance–she made Dean’s list her first semester, after studying 12 hours a day!

JoseMeet Jose

Reaching for his dreams and more!

A recent graduate of Cedar Crest High School and the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center (CTC), Jose Marrero III faced obstacles that could have deterred him, but his gentle disposition, positive attitude, dedication, and perseverance contributed to his ultimate success.

Diagnosed with a disability and given an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), Jose attended the Cornwall-Lebanon School District for 14 years. During his time at CTC, he enrolled in the Pastry Arts Program while working at McDonald’s and living with a foster family. When living with one foster family, he endured abuse and was ultimately removed from that placement.

A difficult home life and transition to a new home did not deter Jose from his dreams of working in pastry arts/culinary arts. His first step in achieving his goal was through the IU13 Lebanon Youth Program; Jose completed a 90-hour paid work experience at a local sandwich shop. From there, he was approved for a two-week training period at Hiram G. Andrews Center. Shortly after completion of that program, he was hired by the Hotel Hershey as a prep cook. Jose’s response to these trainings and eventual hiring? “I can’t believe all of these things are happening to me!”

Meet ElizabethElizabeth

Dropping out of high school, raising kids, and more!

When Elizabeth was 17, she gave birth to her first child. Unable to afford childcare and lacking family support, she dropped out of school to raise her baby.  Elizabeth has struggled to find a job with a sustaining wage that does not require a GED. After the birth of her fourth child, and now working two jobs to keep a roof over their heads, she decided to pursue her education. In 2019, she registered for high school equivalency (HSE) classes with IU13 Community Ed. Within a year, she passed four out of five subject tests, but had three unsuccessful attempts to pass the final exam. Feeling like a failure, Elizabeth became depressed and did not attempt the test again in 2021.

Elizabeth shares, “It was hard battling with everything inside, but with my counselor’s help, I overcame my fear of failing again and in January 2022 made the appointment for my reading test.” Elizabeth took her final test on February 25 and passed. “Hard work pays off,” she said. “But the look on my kids’ faces and my feeling of self-accomplishment is what matters most.”

 

YomarisMeet Yomarys

Preparing for college, nursing, and more!

When Yomarys Brens signed up to participate in the IU13 Summer TANF Program, she had no idea that it would lead her to a career in the field of elder care. In 2015, Yomarys took on a six-week summer internship while keeping her job at a fast food restaurant. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

Yomarys was placed in the activities department at Juniper Village, a retirement facility in Lebanon, PA. She immediately showed exceptional competence in that position. “I loved the residents. They were nice and they were all so welcoming. The staff was so nice, too,” she stated. After completing the internship, she applied at local nursing homes and was quickly hired by one in the food services department. When asked what she looked forward to the most in her new position, she said, “getting to know the residents.”

Her plans for the future now include college and becoming a registered nurse.

Contact communityed@iu13.org to learn more about the TANF Summer Program for students ages 15-18.

Graduation cap and diplomaMeet Jose

Opening doors to greater job options, college coursework, and more!

Since he passed the GED exams, Jose Santiago has found a higher-paying job, started college coursework, and acquired an unshakeable sense of accomplishment. “I feel so proud of myself,” he says. Though studying for the exam demanded a great deal of time and energy, “It was worth the effort, worth the push.”

In early 2014 Jose joined an IU13 Family Literacy class at Carol B. Winters Head Start Center in Lancaster. It had been 12 years since he dropped out of high school at age 18, but he entered the classroom with a strong and singular motivation – to earn his GED. “I needed to set a goal for myself, and I put nothing ahead of it,” he said.

Jose immediately sensed that his classmates had grown discouraged over the challenges of the GED. Although the new version of the GED, which was launched in 2014, is more rigorous than previous versions, Jose didn’t let that discourage him.

“He motivated other students and pushed them to progress,” said his IU13 instructor, Leesa McAnally. “Jose student a great deal outside of class and would come in with questions for me.”

Jose’s hard work paid off when he passed the GED exam that summer. Shortly afterward he found significantly higher-paying work operating an industrial sewing machine. In an effort to continue his education, Jose also starting taking classes at a local community college.

Passing the GED “opened more than one door,” said Jose, “and they continue to open.”

Group of students at Community SchoolMeet Binit

Improving English language skills, making friends, and more!

  • Since arriving as a refugee in 2014, Binit has participated in English conversation classes, after-school activities, and a summer educational program. Read more about Binit here.

One of the young learners benefiting from IU13 Community Education is 13-year-old Binit.  Since arriving in Lancaster as a refugee in April 2014, Binit has participated in English conversation classes, after-school activities, and a summer educational program.

These activities are all coordinated through the Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds Middle School in Lancaster, where Binit is a student. In addition to improving their communication skills, Community School participants “get to make friends and network with other refugees in Lancaster, which helps to increase their social adjustment,” says Josh McManness, Community School Liaison. IU13 Community Education is lead agency for the Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds, which provides community-based support services for refugees and immigrants in need, school families, and the Lancaster City community, particularly those with limited access to resources.

These services help community members succeed in their roles as workers, family members, and citizens. In the case of young Binit, the investment is paying off. “Binit likes living in the United States,” says his mother, Sipra Gajemir. “It’s good that he’s getting educated. It will help him in the future.”

JuanMeet Juan

“Facing a drop-dead deadline, GED student beats the odds.” (photo credit: Lancaster Newspapers)

Read about Juan Vadi here.

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