Towards a Better Life
By Kelly Medinger
SBLC/Learning Works uses education grant to upgrade technology and expand their digital literacy agenda for adult learners
“We give individuals a second chance to take the first step towards a better life,” proclaims Sid Wilson, Executive Director of SBLC/Learning Works.
SBLC/Learning Works (formerly South Baltimore Learning Center) began 30 years ago as a tutoring program for adults learning to read. Since then, the organization has grown to serve approximately 700 adults each year by providing pathways to educational advancement and workforce readiness.
“What’s unique about SBLC/Learning Works,” explains Wilson, “is our 1:1 tutoring model via the support of our dedicated volunteers. Whether it’s distance learning or a traditional classroom, our learners can progress at their own pace.”
A digital agenda
The Knott Foundation awarded SBLC/Learning Works a grant to upgrade their technology inventory, including new computers, a mobile Chromebook cart, and software licenses.
“The advantages leveraged from new hardware and software were beyond what we anticipated and created a significant shift in the scope and depth of our digital agenda,” says Brandy Carter, Assistant Executive Director of Literary Education.
A pre-grant survey of learners found that nearly 60% did not know how to operate a computer. While SBLC/Learning Works sought to change that figure, the technology upgrades they made showed success on a number of other fronts: increasing access to devices; improving instruction with just-in-time curriculum based assessment measures; and creating new partnerships for fulfilling career pathways for students.
Pathways to the future
SBLC/Learning Works recently cultivated a relationship with Byte Back, a nonprofit career pathways program in the information technology sector. Their learners now have the opportunity to learn essential computer skills, earn industry certifications, and eventually be placed as Help Desk support technicians or other technology-related positions.
“Partnerships like the one we have with Byte Back are so important,” states Wilson. “They are willing to meet our learners where they are and guide them in the direction of their goals.”
For one learner at SBLC/Learning Works – Odith Sandoval – that goal is to improve her English language skills so she can help her two daughters with their schoolwork. Her teachers describe her as a motivated learner and a natural with virtual tools. Her sister also recently enrolled at SBLC/Learning Works and is working towards earning her high school diploma.
Odith has a positive outlook for the future: “Thank you for everything you guys do for us,” she reflects. “I know this is going to help me in my whole life. From here on, everything is going to be different.”