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Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium: Collaborating for Student Success

Nov 1, 2018

Your future earning power and job success depends on how well you prepare yourself. Education and training are key to that preparation, propelling you toward your career goals with newly acquired skills.

Adult education and career education programs can jump-start a new career or move you up the career advancement ladder. Whatever your needs, the member organizations of the Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium will help you realize your academic and career goals.

What is the Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium?

The Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium was established to accelerate adult students’ academic and career success. Through a coordinated planning process, the consortium is developing a system that enables universal academic, employment and career pathways supported by transition specialists who expand access and help students navigate the education path that best meets their needs.

Adult ed computer labThe consortium is comprised of nine organizations supported by partners throughout Contra Costa County:

  • Acalanes Adult Education Center
  • Antioch Adult School
  • Contra Costa Community College District
  • Contra Costa College
  • Contra Costa County Office of Education
  • Diablo Valley College
  • Liberty Adult Education
  • Los Medanos College
  • Martinez Adult Education
  • Mt. Diablo Adult Education
  • Pittsburg Adult Education Center
  • West Contra Costa Adult Education

Adult ed studentsThese organizations serve a broad spectrum of adult learners, providing education programs that meet essential needs:

  • Elementary and secondary basic skills, including classes required for a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate
  • Classes for non-citizens eligible for educational services in citizenship and English as a second language, and workforce preparation classes in basic skills
  • Education programs for adults with disabilities
  • Short-term career education programs with high employment potential
  • Programs for those interested in an apprenticeship

“The consortium has a joint focus. We want to create clear career pathways for students and avoid redundancy. In the past, some students were taking adult ed classes, and then when they transitioned to career education at their local community college, they were having to take classes that were very similar to what they had taken at adult ed. Now our programs are aligned to work together to reduce redundancy, enabling students to advance towards their goals more quickly and easily,” said Joan Symonds, DVC workgroup co-chair.

Bridge programs

Joan SymondsIn addition to her role with the consortium, Joan Symonds is also a faculty member with the Diablo Valley College Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. The Project ACCESS program was developed by Diablo Valley College and Mt. Diablo Adult Education. It provides training, career and other support services for non-native speakers of English who want to enter and advance in the ECE field. Students start by taking classes at adult school, preparing them to “bridge” to college-level courses at DVC. Students take one English as a second language (ESL) class and one ECE class per term. Students who successfully complete the 12-unit program receive an Associate Teacher Certificate.

Project ACCESS students take their classes together as a cohort, enabling them to benefit from peer support. Participants also receive financial aid advising and academic guidance throughout the program.

The consortium views “bridge” programs like Project ACCESS as integral to the guided pathway model, providing a clear curricular pathway with “high-touch” support. With this in mind, the consortium has developed additional curriculum bridges from adult school to community college including:

  • Pre-apprenticeship program
  • Office professional
  • Culinary Arts

More programs are on the horizon including curriculum bridges to horticulture and allied health.

“The core of this work for me is rooted in the connections I see – between students, faculty and students, and the adult education schools and community colleges. These connections support students to have a focus, be engaged, access the available supports, and clearly know they can achieve their individual goals,” said Symonds.

Education creates opportunity

Jenny Freidenreich“The consortium has a goal to create opportunities within our communities. That’s what’s exciting about this work. Education is a key component to acquire a livable wage, and the adult education program is working to create opportunities for people through affordable education,” said Jenny Freidenreich, DVC workgroup co-chair and DVC math instructor.

Freidenreich knows math can be a struggle for many students; however, there are several classes that are specifically designed to help students in this area.

“MathLeap offers an accessible, accelerated way for students to refresh their understanding of math concepts. The Math for the Trades class is intended for students interested in taking apprenticeship exams. These are just a couple of the options available to students who need to build their math skills and boost their confidence,” said Freidenreich.

Seamless transition

To ensure academic and career success, transition specialists provide free supportive services to adult learners, focusing on populations with unique needs – veterans, the economically disadvantaged, single parents, the disabled, English language learners, the incarcerated, foster youth and more.

Transition specialists provide academic and career guidance, while also connecting students to available support services including financial aid, employment services, vocational training, educational opportunities, social services, rehab programs, counseling and more.

Nicole Gomez and Darryl Coachman are two of seven transition specialists in Contra Costa County who work with students on a one-on-one basis to discuss educational and career goals and to learn more about that student’s specific situation. The consortium has served over 500 students in central Contra Costa County, and many more throughout the region.

“I am honored to work with such a diverse population of students and help each individual student complete their goals in higher education. My job consists of connecting students to college resources, navigating the pathway to college, and finding what is the right fit for them. This may consist of career pathways, job development or general education. We are dedicated to each student’s completion of his or her educational path,” said Nicole Gomes, Adult Education Transition Specialist for Diablo Valley College.

Project ACCESS

Erika Ruiz

Erika RuizFrom a young age, Erika Ruiz had been interested in working with children but she wasn’t sure how to prepare for a career in early childhood education. Her daughter’s preschool teacher shared information about the English as a Second Language (ESL) for Early Childhood Education (ECE) class offered through Mt. Diablo Adult Education, as well as the Project ACCESS program that bridges students to Diablo Valley College. While Ruiz was eager to enroll, she did have some challenges to overcome. She appreciated the support she received from Nicole Gomes, a transition specialist who helped her to navigate the enrollment process

“Not being a U.S citizen scared me, and I thought that I might not be a good candidate to apply for financial aid, but this did not stop me. Nicole is an amazing person. She helped me enroll in all of my classes and helped me apply for financial aid. She solved many of the concerns I had and referred me to others who helped me solve any other problem I had,” said Ruiz.

Once Ruiz enrolled in the program, she charted her career path.

“I have learned a lot in every class. It’s preparing me for my future career, and it has improved my English as well. I’m now pursuing my goals from a different point of view. I’m completing an associate teacher certification in four semesters, and I may want to continue on and achieve a master teacher certification, if not something higher,” said Ruiz.

“I definitely recommend this program because each and every person involved helps you with anything you need to succeed academically. My ECE teachers are well prepared on each subject that they teach. We receive a lot of support from students, teachers, study group, and the transition specialist,” said Ruiz.