BEACON for Adult Literacy, like many Adult Education literacy organizations across the country, is undergoing change. The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) has shifted education (at all levels) to have a strong focus on job readiness skills and career pathways. While any change can be challenging, BEACON is approaching the future with optimism and a focus on how the program can grow and continually improve.
There are many ways that BEACON is adapting for growth and to fulfill the requirements of the new legislation that impacts Adult Education programs. First, we have increased our semesters from twelve week terms to fourteen weeks. Second, we have developed a resume coaching program. Third, we created a population-specific job readiness curriculum. BEACON has also continued to expand our board of directors to include professionals from the business, nonprofit, government, education and academic sectors. These individuals bring a diversity of skills and are presently developing BEACON’s 3-year strategic plan. A major component of the plan is to consider and approve new and expanded programs.
Almost one in four students at BEACON is unemployed and seeking employment. While 56 percent of our students are employed in some capacity, the majority of our students (96 percent) live below the poverty level—a powerful indicator that most of our students, if not all, are either currently out of work or not earning enough at their present jobs to adequately support their families. BEACON is committed to instituting activities that promote acquisition of job skills and subsequently create viable career pathways. However, we cannot exclude the 21 percent of students who are not employed or seeking employment. It is a delicate balance, but as we adapt the program we strive to meet the unique needs of all 350+ students we serve each year.
With Thanksgiving just celebrated, I wanted to share with our readers and supporters what I am most thankful for. I am blessed with a dedicated staff and a cadre of devoted volunteers that collectively make the program successful. Special thanks to Kay Fitzgerald, a Postulant of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia (on her path to become a Sister), who has lead our efforts in integrating job skills into our ESOL classes. Kay has developed job skills topics, survey tools and lesson plans for Intermediate to Advanced Level students. She has also formalized our resume coaching program, trained resume coaches, and coordinated individual tutoring sessions for students.
For as long as I can remember, volunteerism has been a source of deep personal meaning for me, and this is the part of BEACON I am most proud of. BEACON is entirely facilitated by volunteer instructors who teach ESOL instruction, workforce development, citizenship preparation, financial literacy, civics education and technology. As BEACON has adapted to the new WIOA, restructuring areas of our program and integrating workforce and career pathway components, volunteers have been receptive and even eager to participate and to field-test new curriculum and activities that enhance their students’ employability. More than 110 volunteers donated over 10,000 hours of service to BEACON in fiscal year 2016. We are anticipating that we will attain or even exceed that goal in fiscal year 2017. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of BEACON. Thank you to each and every one of you for your tireless efforts and endless contributions to our students and the BEACON program.
In June, Amy Abbott was unanimously elected as BEACON board chair. Amy is a community organizer for VOICE and has eight years of experience in nonprofit management. She is trilingual, fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Amy brings a new energy to the board at a critical time. The board is engaged in strategic planning which involves attaining revenue diversification, donor cultivation, and organization sustainability. Diana Paguaga, a high-profile leader in the Prince William community, was elected as vice chair. Diana was recently awarded the 2016 Prince William Living Influential Woman Award. BEACON’s leadership team has never been stronger and I am thankful for having been blessed with the incredible 13 board members that care deeply about the lives and welfare of immigrant families in our community.
I invite anyone reading this newsletter to contact me to learn more about how you can help support or become involved with BEACON. We are always in need of volunteers and can match your skills and interests, and availability, to a variety of roles. For those not called to volunteer, donations are always welcome and much appreciated.
I can be reached at 703-368-7491 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again to everyone who supports BEACON.
Jennifer Mora Zuniga