District Grant Supports Los Alamos Basic Education Initiative
Posted by Linda Hull, Rotary Club of Los Alamos, NM
Through an initiative undertaken by the late Gil Butler with a District 5520 matching grant, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos has provided financial support for students in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) department of the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) since 2008. The Club does this by paying the exam fees for students taking the General Education Degree (GED) and High School Equivalency (HSE) exams.
The beneficiaries of this grant are students served under the UNM-LA ABE program and who participate in the HSE program: Los Alamos residents; Native American students from surrounding Pueblos; and students who are recovering from substance abuse at Delancey Street Foundation (San Juan Pueblo, NM) and the Sangre de Cristo Women’s Transitional Living Program (Peña Blanca, NM). This project, as shown by its success in the past, has positively affected the Los Alamos community and its neighbors by providing educational advancement for those who might not otherwise be able to afford the exam fees, $51.50. Improving educational opportunities for local residents, whatever their age or circumstance, is in keeping with Rotary’s pledge to support literacy and vocational success.
This project addresses the needs of an under-served student population that encompasses broad demographics: disenfranchised high school students; single parents, especially mothers, returning to the work force; and older students who have not been able to complete high school in a timely manner or who have not been able to seek a better quality of life with improved employment opportunities. This project fulfills a humanitarian need by helping close an education gap and by promoting literacy. It gives hope an opportunity to thrive.
During the 2015-16 school year, with District 5520 matching grant money provided to our Club, we worked closely with Drs. Gabriel Baca and Jane Clements, administrators of the ABE department at UNM-LA, to recruit students earning their HSE degrees. When campus instructors deem students are prepared to take their HSE exams, they are assigned a voucher number for the paid-in-full exam; the registered number is then provided directly to the testing site. The vouchers, known as HiSet vouchers, are available for purchase for $51.50 per exam from Educational Testing Service of Princeton, NJ.
Our funding also provides practice exams, trademarked as GED. (High School Equivalency and HSE are now the common term and acronym that have replaced
General Education Degree and GED, which are now trademarked.)
Dr. Clements wrote on March 19, 2016, “I wanted to let you know that your generous support of our High School Equivalency program has provided scholarships for 14 students during the 2015-2016 school year, and GED practice tests for another 6 students. Of these students, 6 have passed all the subtests of the HiSet, thereby earning their NM high school equivalency credential, while the other 8 have passed part of the HiSet and are in the process of studying to complete the other subtests needed for the HSE. All of the 6 students who used the practice vouchers are in the process of completing the GED or HiSet exam.
With goals as varied as improving their current employment, pursuing a career in the military, obtaining certification as a welder to obtaining college degrees in liberal arts and marine biology, these students have set themselves on a path to more fulfilling lives and careers—made possible by your support.”
Upon May 12th graduation, Dr. Baca wrote, “This year, a total of 19 students, including 5 from our UNM-Los Alamos classes, have used the Rotary Scholarship to cover the costs of the HiSet Exam. This includes 6 students from our classes at Delancey Street and 5 students from our classes at Sangre de Cristo Women's Transitional Living Program. We so appreciate the support of the Los Alamos Rotary Club. You are making a difference in the lives of these students.”
Following the ceremony, HSE students who had just received their diplomas gathered to thank those Rotarians in attendance and posed for several photos. The mood was jubilant, and Lawrence Medina, director of the Sangre de Cristo Women’s Transitional Living Program, was so grateful that the women in the program had been given life-changing educational opportunities, he could only repeat, “You have no idea what this means to us, you have no idea what this means to us."
Inspired by such graduation success, overwhelming enthusiasm, and heartfelt gratitude, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos plans to apply again in 2016-17 for yet another District 5520 Community Matching Grant to support this project. Rotary changes lives!