Figures, stories shed light on problem

According to state statistics, one in four adults in Lycoming County have not received their high school diploma.

Linda Herr, director of The Learning Center, provided the statistics from the state Data Center out of Harrisburg. She explained that of the nearly 25 percent of county adults, 24 years old and older, that haven’t received their high school diploma about 6 percent have less than a ninth-grade education.

But since the data doesn’t account for those adults 18 to 24 years old, the problem could be bigger. Herr added that the numbers are based off of the census, which means there could be more adults out there that didn’t answer honestly when asked about education or didn’t complete a census form.

“The numbers could be higher,” Herr said. “I have no hard data to base that on. I can only base that on anecdotal information.”

Stories, such as a mother who drove farther for a GED class in order to avoid a local class since it took place at her daughter’s elementary school, tell Herr that people hide the fact that they need literacy help.

And by living illiterate, it makes tasks, such as finding and keeping employment, difficult.

“If there’s anything that comes down to written form, and you are expected to read and be compliant then you have to get someone to read that to you or hope that someone makes an oral announcement. But then you have to make sure you remember every detail,” Herr said, using a company-wide memo as an example.

And meeting basic needs, such as grocery shopping, can be time-consuming.

“One woman would say when she would go to the grocery store she would have to buy food with pictures on the label,” Herr added.

The Learning Center, a United Way partner agency and funded by the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, offers a variety of courses to help adults. Volunteer tutoring classes, computer classes and career readiness classes all are offered by the program, which is located on the third floor of the James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fourth St. The Learning Center started as the Lycoming County Literacy Project in 1981.

Herr explained that it’s important to get involved as a community to help those who need it, because it’s a societal issue. The Learning Center is hoping to do its part.

“It gives people the opportunity to get that (GED) certification because without the GED or a high school diploma, it is difficult to even get a toe in the door with an employer. That’s the first step in employability, to get a career and that upward mobility,” she said.

To learn more about The Learning Center, call 326-0536 extension 160.