A thriving economy creates new job opportunities, but without the right skills and training, not everyone can participate. The Greenville Literacy Association is committed to ensuring all community members can take advantage of Greenville’s growth, offering classes in adult literacy and basic education and English as a second language (ESL) to provide the skills needed to meet employer demand.
John Jaraczewski, who joined GLA as executive director in February, said class participation fluctuates with the economy, but the need for quality, affordable adult education remains.
“In a strong economy, enrollment lags, but literacy levels and educational attainment are the same — students just have a harder time getting to us because of work and other barriers,” he said. “But if they don’t improve their skills and build for the future, they have less opportunity for growth.”
To adequately respond to student and employer needs, GLA has had to become more adaptable.
“Studying is hard work, so we need to do whatever we can to remove the barriers that prevent them from getting a life-changing credential such as a GED,” Jaraczewski said. “They need us to be entrepreneurial in bringing our services directly to those who need them.”
One way GLA makes its education programs more accessible for students is through partnerships with local businesses, community groups, and faith-based organizations. In addition to classes at its three Upstate learning centers, the group often arranges to provide instruction anywhere there’s a population of volunteers, or students needing onsite services.
“We’ve partnered with the Greenville Drive to provide English classes for their Latin players during homestands. Their employer, the Red Sox, is committed to advancing the lives of their players,” Jaraczewski said. “We’re also offering ESL coursework at The Cliffs at their invitation, along with conversational Spanish, so employees can work together more collaboratively and create a more inclusive workplace.”
Jaraczewski, whose experience includes working at a public, four-year university, said access to education at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through adult continuing education, is valuable and potentially transformative for the student.
“Employers seek talented, engaged workers who know how to problem-solve; not finite skills, but a reservoir of skills and insight that allows them to change over time to meet the demands of a robust economy,” he said. “Adult learners have unique experiences and issues that prevent them from pursuing education; we show them a path forward. If they can learn to love learning, they can draw on those skills for the rest of their lives.”
Responding to changing needs with efficiency and innovation requires investment not only in facilities and equipment but also in training to advance employee expertise. In 1993 GLA created an endowment through the Community Foundation of Greenville to provide an adequate financial foundation to carry out its work out into the future.
“Like all nonprofits, we have to be agile and strategic in where we place our resources. The endowment ensures that we’ll be able to address our basic mission and adapt effectively,” Jaraczewski said. “It’s an exciting time; the economy is growing. The need is less apparent, but it is very real. We continue to evolve and change to meet additional needs. It’s what we’re passionate about.”
CFG President Bob Morris said GLA continues to build on its legacy of more than 50 years of strengthening the Greenville community through learning.
“I can’t imagine a more life-transforming skill than the ability to read,” Morris said. “It removes a substantial obstacle to self-sufficiency. The board and staff of the Greenville Literacy Association work tremendously hard to change the lives of their students.”