State and federal ABE funding that are used to support ABE programming

WEST ABE is a geographically large consortium with programs ranging in small, rural towns to large metro suburbs.  WEST ABE relies heavily upon instructors to form relationships with community partners, decipher student needs and foster relationships within the communities they serve.  The following are examples pertaining to WEST ABE.

At the Stearns County Jail, the students look forward to coming and attending programming. One student said, “Education helps my brain not go crazy in my cell.” Another said (using the Life Skills part of the curriculum) “I really like the Substance Abuse workbook because it uses real-life examples.” In the last year several students have taken the GED pretests and are working within the needed study areas. The partnership between jail programming and the education portion is crucial. Administrators are working to increase hours for education as the benefits to incarcerated students are great.  WEST is currently expanding Stearns Co. Jail programming in a pilot program that brings more time slot openings to students. This now includes Saturday and Sunday programming and Thursday nights until 11:00 p.m. So far this one month trial is proving successful.

The Monticello CareerForce Center, formerly known as Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services (CMJTS), houses an ABE classroom within their facility.  The partnership offers ABE services to the CareerForce clientele in a convenient setting and helps bridge the gap between services. Most students are referred to the program by the employment specialists and other staff in the building. The CareerForce Center also houses Vocational Rehab and other partners whom refer their clients as potential students. Classes offered include GED preparation, Computer Literacy, Boiler License study, Basic literacy skills and Accuplacer Preparation. Many students are interested in computer literacy due to the fact they are trying to enter the labor force with skills in that area. This partnership helps them meet their educational and basic needs while fostering development towards economic self-sufficiency.

In Wayzata, WEST ABE’s largest program site, the shared location and partnership with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) provides a list of opportunities. This unique facility address a multitude of services under one roof: housing, transportation, food shelf, family support, employment and education. Scholarships and programs help support preschool through youth education. IOCP staff refer their clients to ABE for English skills, GED and academic skills in order to increase their skills for passing the GED, college readiness skills (prepare for further education) and English language acquisition to increase their chances for employment, post-secondary education and a better job.  The same will be done by ABE instructors, referring students within the IOCP to needed and provided services.

This is all done to give clients the foundations to be self-sufficient and find employment to better support their family and socio-economic needs. The demands of work, children, and finances often is a barrier to individuals in moving ahead and furthering their education. WEST ABE students will volunteer at the RESALE (a clothing donation shop) to learn basic customer service and cashiering skills and opportunities to practice their English.

Several WEST ABE students (past and present) are participants in a program called Project Success in conjunction with the IOCP partners. This 2 year program helps selected students with financial education so they can focus on working towards obtaining their GED or receive training at a local training program or community college.  A few Project Success students will be participating at our GED graduation this year. Having this central location, on a bus route, where students may access the food shelf, resale shop, Hennepin County services and/or IOCP’s services has been helpful for students to achieve their goals. They are a great resource and have an extensive referral list.

The program offered at J&B Wholesale (a private business located in St. Michael) sees a direct correlation between developing their employees and their employees productivity.  Started in 2016, this class was created due to a direct need identified by the employer who then partnered with WEST ABE to provide English Literacy skills contextualized with their job skill requirements.  Three former students have been promoted to lead supervisor, partly due to their increased English proficiency from our classes. J&B is a supportive partner who provides financial reimbursement to their employees while participating in the ESL class.

In the newest location, Ridgedale YMCA, one of the greatest benefits is that students have free childcare for a two-hour window. This applies to both members and non-members of the YMCA. The YMCA’s in MN have been named Welcome Centers for new immigrants. Parents can be close to their children and still have time to learn and engage with other adult learners, providing them with a social outlet as well as an educational experience (Out of 10 current students, six use childcare and the number of children per family ranges from two to six). The two Russian students in the class (husband and wife), drive from Rockford to attend classes (22 miles away) at the Y because there is childcare. Additionally, the classroom space provides the easy ability to create small student groups for activities based on their level of English proficiency. There is a true sense of community in the classroom.

Attending the ABE class offered at Wright County Jail is just one option offered to inmates, along with a variety of others.   Inmate students have, in general, a set of needs unlike those of students in the “on-the-street” classroom. Many have difficulty trusting and lack positive self-esteem.   A number of the students have never had role models for academic pursuit and many come to jail, to the class, having been under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs for many years.  Whether they admit it or not, most are concerned about what will happen to them once they leave the jail. Any one of those things can, and will, hinder a person’s desire or ability to learn.  Upon their release, it is the goal for every student to leave with increased academic skills, a sense of direction, and increased self-esteem that will help them to make positive contributions to their family and the community as well as provide a direct connection to ABE services to continue their academic and employment pursuits.

The ABE setting at the Wright County Jail provides the following opportunities to students:

  • Independent and guided study by students in GED and/of  Accuplacer preparation
  • Identification and self-realization of academic insufficiencies and barriers with regards to reading and writing.
  • Submission of entries to Journeys and having their work recognized and published
  • Submission of entries to Journeys and accepting that their work was not published, and then having the self-esteem to submit again.
  • Developing skills to write a successful business plan
  • Developing skills to write business letters.
  • Computer Literacy skills
  • Financial Literacy skills

The ABE/Life Skills program at the Wright County Jail has been in existence since 1996.  In the past twenty three years it has grown from being offered two afternoons a week, to five days a week by 2000, and from a classroom capacity of seven students per session to 19 students per session, at the time of our move into the new jail facility in April of 2009.   This expansion was made possible through the partnership of our ABE program, Jail Administration, and the Jail Programs Office. Corrections Officers in the cell blocks often refer inmates to our programs after gaining a better understanding of the inmate and their needs. Our Jail Program Director attends the WEST ABE consortium meetings and advocates for the program.

A previous Jail Program Director once explain to public visitors, when asked why inmates have such nice facilities such as the computers and study books, “These people will get out some day and they may someday be your neighbor.  We want to help them to be the best neighbor, the best community member that they can be. Having programs such as ABE, and all the others, makes this a more safe environment for the inmates and for our officers.” Note that all computers in the WCJ ABE classroom are purchased by the jail through inmate commissary.

Those examples listed coordination with partners and support services however direct funding resources only come from our jail partners in these amounts: (Also see 5.4)

Benton County Jail        $2,000

Stearns County Jail        $2,000

Wright County Jail        $5,000