Ongoing Learning Improves Quality of Life for Adults and Their Families in Prince William

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By Katrina Wilson

As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Prince William County Public Schools Adult Learning Programs

PWCS offers a variety of programs for adults and places a strong emphasis on adult education. Ongoing education is important because not only does expanded learning help the individual adult student, but it is also helps the individual’s whole family.

“That’s why I love what I do,” said Donna L. Motsek, adult education coordinator for Prince William County Public Schools. PWCS offers classes such as English language learning, community engagement, a variety of career pathways programs, high school completion classes, GED preparation (pre-GED and GED level), adult basic education, competency-based programs, digital literacy classes and bridging classes. They also have the National External Diploma Program, a competency-based program which leads to a standard high school diploma issued by the school board through the Adult Education Office.

“This program gives the flexibility for people who are working and don’t have time to go to class,” she said. “They schedule their time with their advisor who guides them through the program. It’s very flexible for working adults.”

Community engagement classes are to help people connect with their community and access organizations. Career Pathways Programs are for English language learners as well as high school
completion, with certification exams. They offer industry-recognized certificates in customer service, retail career fields and Microsoft Office Specialist (Word, Outlook and Excel). And bridging classes are to help students transition into the work force or higher education.

“In a normal environment, we do face-to-face instruction,” she said. “Right now, classes are virtual. We will remain virtual until after the holidays. Some of our students prefer the virtual learning, as they don’t have to worry about transportation. When we do return to face-to-face instruction, we will still run some virtual classes.”

Tailored Classes for Employers

Adult Education services are managed under the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. Local programs are accountable for students making measurable skill-level gains and earning credentials. Per regulation, all students are pre and post tested by using approved assessments.

Student data is entered into a National Reporting System and is analyzed for continuous program improvement and modifications. “PWC Public School’ Adult Learning offers onsite services to
employers in the community,” Motsek said. “We tailor our onsite classes to meet the needs of the employer and those of his or her employees.”

Success Stories

It’s not hard to find stories of students whose lives have been enhanced by the programs. Many students have used the programs as a launching pad into further education.

“Recently, one of our graduates from our National External Diploma Program won a national scholarship provided through Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems, the company which owns this program,” Motsek said. “The recipient plans to use her scholarship monies to further her education.”
Another success story involves older graduates.

“At a recent summer graduation ceremony, there were two older graduates (70 years plus),” she said. “As they walked across the stage and I handed them their credentials, they both cried. The much younger summer school graduates stood up and cheered for these two older graduates.”

Attending Classes

Adult Education classes and services are provided at a minimal cost to students. PWCS Adult Education is connected to many community organizations that fund or partially fund these tuition costs for students who qualify for financial assistance.

“We have people of all ages and diverse backgrounds who attend,” she said. “They may be in their late 20s to early 70s, and usually adult students who represent many cultures.”

Individuals must be 18 and not enrolled in a public school in order to access these services. For more information on their programs, visit pwcs.edu/academics___programs/adult_education.

Katrina Wilson is interested to see how the new year will go. She hopes it means hot chocolate, donuts and blankets for herself. You can follow her on Twitter @KatrinaMWilson_.

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