Southeast Regional Resource Center helps hard hit locals back on their own feet with job skills and educational training through its The Learning Connection program.
The non-profit’s overall umbrella philosophy is “all about improving education opportunities for individuals,” Lu Seapy family literacy instructor with SERRC said.
TLC combines General Education Development training and testing with classes on job and life skills. Its Alaska drive program helps job seekers obtain drivers licenses for jobs in which they are require.
“They are educating people so they can find the best ways to find a job, to put together a resume and how to be successful,” Seapy said. “To aid a person in becoming self-sufficient. Really, the key in getting people employed is so that they can be self-sufficient and support themselves financially.”
The Alaska State Legislature created SERRC in 1976.
Seapy said the TLC program assists youth and adults who come from difficult backgrounds. Whether those backgrounds include family instability, instability in their home situation, poor decision-making, substance abuse or they may have just had bad luck losing housing.
“They have not been successful in the standard school environment,” Seapy said.
But that is no excuse for letting a person slip through the cracks.
“When you deny a person their right to a basic education you are taking away their ability to support themselves,” Seapy said. And that is bad for everyone.
It is less likely someone is going to make a living wage without some form of secondary education – whether degree or certificate, Seapy said. Two-thirds of all employment in the US will require some college education or better within five years, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce.
“In the information age … it is all about education and training,” Seapy said. “You cant even be a janitor at one of the largest employment firms in Juneau if you don’t have a drivers license.”
Seapy said family involvement is key to a youth’s success. Though SERRC provides free GED services, Seapy said it is better to be proactive and help youth while they are still in school.
“The family support is really aimed at making sure all individuals… do good in school, gain confidence and reduce dropout,” Seapy said.
Seapy gives the example of a single mother with three children. Her Kindergartener and 2nd grader are active in SERRC’s afterschool homework tutorial and both are reading at grade level. The mother is enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast to earn a nursing certificate. She works seasonally with Goldbelt and is enrolled in “She raised her children so that they will be successful in school,” Seapy said. “And she is pursuing higher education working toward full-time year-round employment.”
One of SERRC’s GED graduates also took advantage of the center’s Alaska Drive program to earn a driver’s license. SERRC funded training and testing.
“He had difficulty coming up with that because he was not working full time,” Seapy said. He then completed the center’s construction program, obtaining with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
What would have happened had these resources not been available to the folks listed above?
“We do know that for every dollar that is spent in early childhood education - Head Start, early literacy, parenting education and support - for every dollar spent the federal government found they save three dollars,” Seapy said, “Investing early on is extremely important and it pays.”
Difficult background will eventually cost more unless you address those needs early on.
Seapy encourages those currently working on a GED to finish testing this year as the test gets its regular nationwide makeover in 2014.
“It is expected to be a lot more difficult and more expensive,” Seapy said. Currently the test costs $25. It will most likely jump to $125, she said.
If not completed by release of the new test, any work done so far will not count.
SERRC receives support with the TLC program from partnerships with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Juneau Jobs Center, United Way of Southeast Alaska, the City and Borough of Juneau Health and Social Services Board, First Bank, Wells Fargo and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to name a few.
For more information about the Southeast Regional Resource Center visit www.serrc.org.JUNEAU EMPIRE