Literacy help available in double doses in Socorro

........................................................................................................................................................................................

County residents seeking to improve their reading or math skills, support their children’s literacy, learn about computers, or prepare for high school diploma equivalency (GED) or college entrance exams now have two programs in town catering to their needs.

Literacy Volunteers of Socorro County

The longstanding Literacy Volunteers of Socorro County no longer operates out of the Park Street office south of the public library. The program office is now located at the Socorro County Administration Building on the corner of Park and Church streets. The city of Socorro and Socorro County teamed up with New Mexico Coalition for Literacy and local donors to support the non-profit program when funding cuts threatened its existence two years ago, LVSC director Celeste Griego said.

But the program’s mandate remains the same.

“Basic literacy is our main focus, adults who read at or below the third-grade level,” Griego said.

LVSC also offers English classes for non-native speakers, basic computer classes and pre-GED classes. All classes are free of charge.

LVSC doesn’t have a schedule of classes; instead, tutors and students schedule their own meeting times and place. The only requirements are that they meet in a public location for one hour a week for six weeks, she said.

Classes and individual tutoring sessions often meet at the public library or the New Mexico Tech campus.

All the LVSC classes and tutoring sessions have openings. To sign up, call Celeste at 835-0589 or stop in at the county manager’s office on Park Street during business hours.

The basic computer literacy class is the only class with a set schedule and limited enrollment. It will meet at the public library at 6 p.m. Tuesday evenings starting June 18. Each student will get to use one of the six library laptops, The class will be tailored to the students’ needs, Griego said.

If the class fills, students will be put on a waiting list for the next computer class, she said. The next class will start in late summer at the Tech campus, depending on tutors’ schedules. The tutors are Tech students.

Griego, the County Manager’s administrative assistant, took on the directorship of LVSC because she felt committed to helping people.

“It’s really a great program. Our volunteers are amazing. I’d like to get more people involved, but if we help just one person, we’re making a difference.”

The Socorro Adult Education Center at the Torres School/Head Start building on Garfield Street is a University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus program,

The center has been offering drop-in literacy and GED tutoring at a building west of the former Torres school library for two and a half years. Hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays (it’s closed during the lunch hour).

For information, contact the center’s tutor Allison Lucero at 575-322-2447. The phone number is a call-out line only, meaning Lucero cannot answer calls, only incoming messages. She returns calls on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The Adult Education Center offers free drop-in tutoring in citizenship, family literacy, ESL, and GED and college entrance exam preparation. Students needing very basic literacy tutoring are referred to the county’s literacy program.

Students work independently using the center’s materials, or engage in one-on-one tutoring with Lucero.

Incoming clients are given a placement test to determine their level. Based on the test results, Lucero sets the student up with an individualized, self-paced course of study.

“It’s a learning lab environment,” Lucero said. “Students use books and computer-based programs, including GED practice tests.”

About 30 students are enrolled at the center now, she said. Preparation for the high school equivalency diploma, commonly known as the GED, is a priority.

“We offer the official GED practice tests for free,” Lucero said.

Before taking even a practice GED test, students must come in to the center and pass an educational assessment in math, reading, and language, she said. Based on the scores, Lucero meets with the student to prepare a plan to address weak areas.

Once basic skills are strong, students can take the GED practice tests at the center. Depending on the practice test scores, Lucero assigns materials to study or refers students for the actual GED exam.

People 18 and over can take the GED exams during one of the GED testing sessions scheduled in Socorro or elsewhere in the state. Underage persons must have parent and school district approval before taking the exam. The next GED exam session in Socorro is scheduled for June 22. Six sessions are offered in Socorro yearly.

The GED test battery is made up of five exams in each of the core high school subject areas: math, reading, writing, science and social studies. Once the candidate has passed all of the exams, the New Mexico Public Education Department will issue a GED high school diploma. This diploma qualifies the recipient for all the benefits of a school-awarded diploma, including access to the state’s lottery college scholarships.

Right now, the cost for the entire GED test battery is $40, Lucero said, but the price will go up to $120 in January 2014 when a new version debuts.

In addition to GED test prep, Lucero will help students prepare to pass the University of New Mexico entrance assessment in English and math or college ACT and SAT exams.

Socorro’s public school district used to run the county’s GED and adult basic education program, but when the district dropped it, the state’s Public Education Department requested bids for the Socorro site.

The contract was awarded to UNM-Valencia campus.