Adult education expands literacy to Verde Valley

CVARP teacher Bret Fox works with one of his students at the program’s Cottonwood LEARN Center, located at the Cottonwood DES building on Cherry Street. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas)

CVARP teacher Bret Fox works with one of his students at the program’s Cottonwood LEARN Center, located at the Cottonwood DES building on Cherry Street. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas)

VERDE VALLEY– There’s not a single soul at the Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center who works as much as 26 hours in a given week.

From the director to the office manager to the instructors, each is available 25 hours each week to meet the needs of the area’s adult learners.

Even if the Verde Valley’s sole in-house adult education program wasn’t losing state funding as of July 1, the program has always been on the proverbial shoestring budget.

When CVARP first opened for business in 1988, the program started with a 16-member board of business members and teachers.

The teachers were actually volunteers. Maybe they had teaching experience. But CVARP wasn’t paying them.

Even today, CVARP relies on volunteers. One of its teachers, Elida Proper began as a volunteer.

“I first became involved with CVARP when I was working on my master’s degree at NAU studying English as a Second Language,” Proper says. “After graduating, I became one of the ESL instructors. In 2010, I began helping adults get their GEDs.

What is adult education?

Adult education programs offer courses in GED preparation and developmental education, such as Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Civics, as well as English as a Second Language, and career skills. 

Adult Education programs are geared toward persons at least 16 years of age not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school under Arizona state law and who are either basic skills deficient, do not have a secondary school diploma or equivalent, or in need of learning the English language learners.

Under Arizona Revised Statute 15-232(b), adult education students are also required to prove legal presence in the United States, which for some people can be difficult, says CVARP Director Doug Watson.

“We have limited students in our ESL classes because of the state requirement for documentation,” Watson says. “If a person learns English, don’t we all benefit from that?”

Who is adult education meant to serve?

For the past month, Reyna Pita and Stella Cikanirwoth have been enrolled in the Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center.

Pita, a mother of two, plans to be a social worker once she earns her GED.

“I’m chasing my education now,” says Pita, who lives on the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s Middle Verde reservation. “Education is there. We need to take [advantage of] it. And here, you can do it at your own pace.”

Now living in Camp Verde, Cikanirwoth is in the United States to get her education – and to take it back to her people in Africa.

Already speaking five languages, Cikanirwoth is at CVARP to earn her GED so she can go to college to become an ultrasound technician.

“Where I come from, people do not know when they are sick,” Cikanirwoth says. “I am going back to school so I can start my clinic and help my people.”

CVARP students also come from as far away as China, Ecuador, Mexico, Syria, Thailand and Vietnam; a “diverse group,” Watson says.

“We could do a lot of things the state doesn’t allow us to do,” Watson says. “We could serve anybody who walks in the door with a greater variety of classes we don’t have now, such as technology, finance, maybe health classes. We could meet the needs of the community, whatever they may be. [State] funding comes with a hitch. With community support, we can be just fine.”

Adult education in the Verde Valley

There are two Adult Education programs in the Verde Valley: Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center, and Yavapai College Adult Basic Education.

The college’s adult basic education program – known as ABE – is available at campuses in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Verde Valley and Chino Valley.

During the next fiscal year, the college “hope[s] to expand into the Sedona campus and several YC Remote Learning Centers at public libraries in Ash Fork, Yarnell, Spring Valley and Camp Verde,” says Craig Lefever, ABE program director.

“We will also be serving students at the Yavapai Apache Nation in the Verde Valley,” says Lefever, who says that “more than 500 students” annually enroll in ABE.

But Yavapai College students – even those of the adult education variety – are enrolled in a more traditional semester-based program.

“Our program is open entry and open exit,” Watson says. “You come in when you are ready to take classes, progress at your own speed. If your life prevents you from attending on a regular basis, we accommodate you.”

By accommodation, students are not on a time clock of any sorts. If it takes three years to complete the program, well, so be it.

Working together

With offices at the Camp Verde Community Library and at the Cottonwood DES building, about 75 adult learners benefit each year from the Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center.

According to Craig Lefever, the Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center and Yavapai College Adult Basic Education have “worked closely for many years.”

“We have shared students, resources and professional learning with one another,” Lefever says. “I sincerely hope this partnership will continue in the future, but I can’t say specifically how this will happen until we know if and how the college’s adult education program will be funded in the coming fiscal year.”

The Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center has locations in Camp Verde and Cottonwood. The Camp Verde office is at the Camp Verde Community Library, address is 130 Black Bridge Road. Call 928-554-8398 for more information.

CVARP also has a Cottonwood location at the Cottonwood DES building, at 1500 E. Cherry St. Call 928-554-8398 for more information.

Yavapai College Adult Basic Education’s Verde Valley campus is located at 601 Black Hills Drive in Clarkdale, Building I, Room 138. Call Craig Lefever at 928-771-6110 or the Clarkdale campus for the GED program at 928-634-6544 or for ESL at 928-649-4564 for more information.

In the third part of this series, we’ll look at how the Camp Verde Adult Reading Program and LEARN Center, and Yavapai College Adult Basic Education, look to survive despite changes in state funding.

--Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle

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