Lafayette family literacy program helps adults attain GED

Parents targeted to finish education

Each day as Amber Wells attends classes to prepare for her high school equivalency exam, her 2-year-old daughter, Morgan, is just two classrooms away.

She said Morgan is the reason she made the decision to complete her high school education by enrolling in the family literacy program offered at Charles Burke Elementary.

The program targets parents interested in earning their GEDs. As part of the program, educational services are provided to the adults and to their young children while they’re in class.

“It’s made coming back to school a lot easier because she’s right down the hall and I can spend time with her and teach her colors and shapes,” Wells said.

The program began at Burke Elementary in January, though it has been available to families in the parish for the past 14 years, said Melodi Marchiafava, the program’s coordinator.

Known as Families Reading Across Neighborhoods Family Literacy, the program got its start in recreational vehicles.

Aging vehicles and budget issues made the program stationary, and Truman Early Childhood Education Center has served as its home base.

“This is the only adult education program that allows parents to bring their children with them,” Marchiafava said.

The program eliminates barriers that may prevent parents, especially single parents, from completing their high school education, Marchiafava said. Those barriers are often transportation and child care.

The program builds in time for parent-child interaction.

Parenting education and home visits are also part of the program, and families receive free books to help build a home library. A career coach also visits with the parents to help them explore college and career opportunities.

The expansion to Burke enables the program to reach more parents, Marchiafava said.

“We have a waiting list of people interested,” she said.

Burke Elementary is the program’s newest location, and services for children were added earlier this month when a classroom became available.

Children from the ages of 4 months to 3 years old attend the early childhood program at the school.

The program celebrated a new addition on Tuesday with the return of GED graduates like Verla Carter.

Carter, 27, dropped out of high school about 11 years ago and was one of the first students to enroll in the FRAN program at Burke in January.

She completed her studies and passed the GED exam in April. This fall, she took information technology classes at South Louisiana Community College and plans to pursue her interest in computer studies.

Carter said her mother, Willie Mae Carter, and her daughter, Heaven, now 8, inspired her to return to school. When Carter began classes in January, Heaven was a student at Burke. She now attends Westside Elementary.

“Before I started coming to school, my daughter was having a hard time, and she started improving after I started coming here. We’d sit down together and do our homework together,” Carter said.

Heaven’s studies continue to improve at her new school, Carter said.

“She and my mom are the ones who encouraged me to do it,” she said.

Wells, 20, has passed four of the five parts of the GED exam and retakes the final part of the exam on Wednesday.

The day before the test, she was hope-filled for the opportunities a GED will afford her.

“It’s hard to raise a child without it. You can’t get a good job,” Wells said.

“With an education, you thrive. I’m nervous because there are so many things out there I could be. I want to peek my nose out there and see what I like best.”