For over a decade, the New Orleans Public Library and the YMCA of Greater New Orleans have partnered to help adults reach their academic, professional, financial, and personal needs through the YMCA Educational Services (YES!) program. YES! began their partnership with the Library shortly after Hurricane Katrina when they moved their program to the Main Library and since then they have increased the services they offer and have expanded to two additional library locations, now working with over 750 adults each year. When asked about the partnership, YES! Director Shannan Cvitanovic says, “There’s no better location for an adult literacy program than the public library. When adults struggle with reading, they know to come to the library to ask for help. YES! could not have the same impact on the community if we were located anywhere else.”
YES! offers two types of programs, Community Education and Adult Education. The Community Education program provides support and guidance for clients with a specific need that they themselves cannot meet like completing job applications, resume building, email set up, completing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications, and other assistance related to workforce readiness, technology, or community advancement.
The Adult Education program focuses on adult students who are interested in taking the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) or who want to increase their reading, language, or math skills while also enhancing their technological skills. The Adult Education program serves adults who are beginning readers through twelfth grade level. Each student comes into YES! at various levels and with different goals in mind. Recent YES! success stories include a hotel housekeeper who was about to be promoted to supervisor, however she was embarrassed by her lack of computer skills and how that would hold her back in her new role. Another student, 20 years post high school graduation, needed a math refresher to pass a test required to advance at work. In each of these cases, the free classes at YES! helped these adults to further develop the skills needed to advance in the workforce, thus enabling them to better support their families.
A current YES! student came into the Adult Education program eight months ago and has already passed all five HiSET tests. To her, education is a stepping stone to a better, more fulfilling life. She says, “Education means a better opportunity for goals you want to set in life. I know adult education with the YES! at the library is awesome because you have a staff that works with you, encourages you, pushes you to be better, and you can get a better understanding of what you are working on. One of my goals after graduating is getting a good job.”
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