Programs Employing People provides path to G.E.D.

A Point Breeze facility has reinstituted classes for those lacking a high school diploma.

By Joseph Myers

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Feb. 21, 2013

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Instructor Jessica Jones, with chalk, hopes to give her learners enough confidence to take the five-part GED examination. 

Photo by Greg Bezanis

As she addressed division and multiplication problems Monday morning at Programs Employing People, 1200 S. Broad St., Vanessa Levonchuck felt fortunate to number herself among a committed trio of learners looking to solve them and the fractions that would follow. 

Courtesy of a Mayor’s Commission on Literacy grant, the Point-Breeze location has resumed its educational services and GED classes for area individuals after a 20-month hiatus, with Levonchuck especially eager to bolster her knowledge and prospects.

“I’m expecting to learn as much as possible and get on with my future,” the resident of Seventh Street and Oregon Avenue said on her program’s initial day of instruction. “I really believe in myself this time, so I’m looking forward to all the lessons.”

The confident classroom occupant, who cut short her studies as a sophomore at Parkway Center City High School for undisclosed reasons, also can count herself among the nearly 200,000 Philadelphians who lack a high school diploma, according to the 2011 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Report. Wanting to rid herself of dropout status, she had tried to study for her equivalency on her own and had enrolled at Center City’s Career and Academic Development Institute before finding her current spot online. The facility, which after 20 years had to discontinue its adult community education offerings in June ’11 because of funding issues, landed Levonchuck and her peers through the endowing agency and matched them with instructor Jessica Jones, an alumnus of Universal Audenried Charter High School, 3301 Tasker St. 

“We are hoping to work with as many as 45 students by the end of June,” adult education coordinator Lisa Hannum said, noting her employer, which opened in 1969 primarily to provide education, recreation and job placement services to those with intellectual disabilities, had a waiting list when the original lessons ended. “We have so many people whose troubles functioning in society will persist if they don’t improve their skills.”

The inhabitant of the 1300 block of Dickinson Street explained the host is dividing pupils into two tracks based on their Tests of Adult Basic Education results, with basic level guidance in the morning and advanced level tutelage in the afternoon. Over what Hannum envisions as two nine-week cycles, attendees will boost their math, reading and writing comprehension through contextualized learning, or instruction built upon workforce-based lessons involving real world connections. In other words, it is providing answers to the frequent high school-situated inquiry, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”

“We’re not going to restrict our classes to only people who need their GED,” the Passyunk Square supervisor said of the free assistance, “because so many people who graduate are passed through with no skills by schools that have too many underachieving enrollees. We have to do more for them, and they have to come to expect more from themselves.”

That equation makes sense to Cory Rowley, one of 500,000 city residents who are ineligible for 62 percent of employment opportunities because of low literacy skills, according to a 2012 Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild study. The Northeast Philly figure possesses a diploma but found herself stumped when seeking a vocation.

“I know people who had their instructors just pass them to be done with them,” Rowley said. “I wasn’t among them, but I felt I had very little direction.”

She enrolled at DeVry University but failed to take a liking to the curriculum and again set herself to obtaining a path. With an interest in nursing, she knows her math and reading mastery must improve and having tasted college, albeit briefly, she could not overlook a difference between remedial postsecondary lessons and her present endeavors.

“What I’m learning now, people have to pay so much for at places like Community College of Philadelphia,” Rowley said. “This is free, so I don’t see the problem with committing myself to everything that’s going to be presented to me.”

Once she reaches 15 hours of classroom time, Rowley will receive a career coach from the site’s community integrated employment department and will gain help with preparing her résumé, bolstering her soft skills, developing a career pathway, handling mock interviews and readying for job fairs. A veteran of GED classes, Breana Black also desires distinction as a nurse and covets competency in math and writing. As Jones introduced some fraction problems, her third charge nodded in recognition of the day’s heavy emphasis on a weak area.

“Plenty of trials and tribulations have led me to this moment where I’m putting the focus on me,” Black, a North Philly resident, said of finding the class through an Internet search. “I’m definitely here to learn and get ahead.”

Doing so seems very likely with Jones at the helm. A resident of the 2400 block of Christian Street, the teacher holds a sociology degree from Temple University and had assisted Programs Employing People’s mentally delayed individuals before receiving an offer from Hannum to intensify her educational experience.

“It’s the first day and I’m a little nervous, but everyone has been very patient and eager,” Jones said.

Her future participants likely will possess the same attitude, as she and Hannum noted that agencies are encouraging learners to pass their GED examinations before the state introduces new tests Jan. 1 and nullifies existing scores. For Levonchuck, having a deadline will only enhance her attention span.

“I want to get it done, for sure,” she said, adding she has a few career options. “Because of what I’m seeing today, I think I’ll do it.”

For more information, call 215-952-4272. 

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

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1. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2013 at 09:29PM

“I love y'all suggestion and I would love to Get my G.ED but all the classes I went to was very very very hard for me because Iam border line retardatio buy high functional and very smart but Iam. trying to find A G.E.D class that is right for me and make me feel comfortable”

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2. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2013 at 09:29PM

“I love y'all suggestion and I would love to Get my G.ED but all the classes I went to was very very very hard for me because Iam border line retardatio buy high functional and very smart but Iam. trying to find A G.E.D class that is right for me and make me feel comfortable”


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