A Learning Center success story

Gary Schoonmaker, 51, of Newberry, knows first-hand the value of the Learning Center.

The Learning Center is a service of the Lycoming County Library System and is a United Way agency.

The center is a ProLiteracy America affiliate adult basic education provider that works to equip Lycoming County adults with the basic literacy skills they need to be better family members, workers and community members.

Each week day, Schoonmaker comes to the Learning Center, where he studies from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., working toward his GED. Students are taught by Linda Herr, literacy program coordinator and Rob Getz, adult education instructor.

A serious accident in 1973 left him permanently disabled. During his time at the Danville State Hospital, he put his “nose in the books” and realized there was more he could do. In 2004, he took the entire GED test and passed two sections. That gave him the encouragement and drive he needed to further his education and he’s spent the last eight years working toward that goal.

He recently took the math pre-test for geometry and algebra and got a passing grade. After he completes that, he’s on to the written essay and grammar portions of the test. He never wants to stop learning.

“I’m a good worker,” he said. “My short-term goal is to finish my schooling and my long-term goal is to become a welder.”

He knows it’s hard and that he has a long road ahead of him, but he’s found inspiration in those around him.

“I talk to nurses, and some of them go to school while working full-time,” he said. “I know it’s difficult, but I can do it. Others encourage me to persevere.”

Schoonmaker says he’s motivated because he wants more in life. He believes in the Learning Center program because it has directly impacted his life in a positive way.

“You see how these students are benefitting. We are all so dedicated and trying so hard to change our lives,” he said.

He recently invited Lycoming County Commissioners Ernie Larson and Tony Mussare to visit the class and see the difference it is making in the community. Schoonmaker hopes the commissioners can find funding sources for the program.

“If this program ends and I can’t finish my GED, my dreams will be dashed,” he said. “There’s no limit to what we can do with our education.”

The Learning Center is located at 19 E. Fourth St., on the third floor of the Welch Wing at the James V. Brown Library.

Services are free and include one-on-one tutoring, small group studies, math and writing assistance, a comprehensive computer lab, Family Literacy programs, English as a second language and workplace skills programs.

For more information, call 570-326-0536.