Vita has formulated a plan to resume in-person operations as allowable under orders of the Governor of Pennsylvania and with guidance from PA Department of Education, the Center for Disease and Prevention, and the Bucks County Health Department.
Vita has been awarded a $7,000 grant from the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority under the COVID-19 Emergency Non-profit Relief Program (ENRP) to support Vita’s vital services to combat the negative effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
This grant will help Vita provide online delivery of instruction and educational support services to its English as a Second Language (ESL), basic literacy, and GED students as Vita staff, teachers, tutors, and students rise to the challenges of working, sharing, and learning from home during the COVID-19 crisis.
Vita has a 49-year history of working in the criminal justice system and the community in Bucks County. In that time, thousands of men, women, and at-risk youth have benefitted from Vita’s educational programs. Vita provides literacy, ESL, decision-making, and work preparation classes, taught by both professional staff and trained volunteer tutors. Today, Vita is the lead literacy agency in the county and the largest provider of educational services in the Bucks County Correctional facilities.
Since mid-March, Vita staff has been working hard to respond to the challenges, effects, and government-mandated restrictions of the Covid-19 crisis. We have mobilized plans for online instruction and distance learning for Literacy and ESL students, expanding existing platforms and researching and evaluating new technologies for digital learning.
Our PA Department of Education funding is continuing through June, the end of the program year. The governor and the state legislature have not yet reached agreement about the 2020-2021 budget. Although we do not know exactly what to expect for Vita under future COVID-19 conditions, we plan to provide classes in the new fiscal year. The program directors and coordinators are planning for different possibilities – virtual classes, face-to-face classes, or a combination of these. We look forward to continuing to work together to serve our students.
Plans for registering Literacy, GED, and ESL students for the summer term without the traditional in-person orientation, registration, and testing are in the works. Directors, coordinators, and technical support staff are working together to envision and implement digital and online possibilities for June registration for classes that will begin in July. Stay tuned for updates.
One of the important components of the Family Literacy programs is Interactive Literacy Activities (ILA), which engage parents and children in shared learning experiences in the classroom.
Now that families are quarantining at home, Family Literacy instructors have been providing ideas and suggestions for at-home ILA. It has been a joy to get a glimpse of this through photos shared by parents.
Vita staff, teachers, tutors, and students are rising to the challenges of working, sharing, and learning from home. In an impressive effort, directors and coordinators worked to mobilize plans for online instruction and distance learning for Literacy and ESL students, expanding existing platforms and researching and evaluating new technologies. Teachers and coordinators are doing an amazing job of designing creative lessons and activities for our students to continue learning. Office staff are also continuing to work remotely to support our programs.
Student engagement. This is not an easy task, given the situation and the fact that many students are dealing with real hardships and challenges such as lost jobs, illness, and children who are also struggling with at-home, distance learning. Teachers, coordinators, and tutors are working hard to communicate and support their students through phone calls, texts, and emails. “Live” online classes are being well attended and most of our students continue to be served in a variety of learning experiences.
Unfortunately, Decisions and literacy classes and tutoring in the Bucks County Correctional Facility have been suspended, since no visitors or educational programs are permitted at this time.
Vita will continue to respond and adjust to this continuing crisis and will communicate updates on current efforts and future registrations for new students
Stay Home! Stay Safe!
Vita is looking for volunteers from the business community to help our students succeed.
Our new “Grow Your Own Business” course combines English language learning with studies in American civics and a professional entrepreneurial training course taught by instructors from the Bucks County Community College.
Volunteers with entrepreneurial expertise can help students in the following ways:
- Classroom speakers – discussing topics such as how to start a business; making a business plan; how to network; or legal and financial considerations.
- Mentors and advisors – counseling students who feel ready to start a business.
- Tutors- helping students with business communication skills.
Vita volunteers are an important part of our mission of bringing learning to life. To get involved as a “Grow Your Own Business” volunteer, contact Mercedes Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vita hosted a gathering of students, tutors, and teachers from the Literacy Tutoring and High School Equivalency programs to recognize and honor student and volunteer achievements during the past academic year. Over 100 people attended the celebration held at Bensalem Library on July 27.
Executive Director Mercedes Anderson, welcomed the crowd and set the theme for the event, which was a celebration of the faces of success. Attendees included students and their proud families and friends as well as Vita tutors, teachers and staff members.
Kathy White, Director of Literacy & High School Equivalency (HSE) Programs, honored the students, paying tribute to their courage, dedication, and hard work, noting the many challenges faced by adult learners.
Achieving Their Goals
Students speakers included Justyna Ciechanowicz, Veronica Herera-Zamora, and Danielle Marino, who all passed their High School Equivalency tests and received diplomas, and Malama Sesay, who attained United States Citizenship. They each gave moving speeches about overcoming many challenges and barriers that face adult learners and their persistence that enabled them to achieve their goals. Overall, 13 students received their High School Equivalency diploma and three attained U.S. Citizenship this year.
Legislators Recognize Student Success
State Representative Gene DiGirolamo and U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick both attended the event and addressed the crowd.
Congressman Fitzpatrick presented certificates to students who attained their High School Equivalency Diploma or United States Citizenship along with United States flags, which were flown over the United States Capital in recognition of their achievements.
Students who attained their High School Equivalency Diploma or United States Citizenship also received certificates of achievement from State Senator Bob Mensch.
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo spoke about his immigrant grandparents, their struggles and achievement, and the importance of education. His words seemed to resonate with Vita’s students, many of whom are immigrants.
Tutors Help Make It Possible
Pat Stansfield, Vita’s Literacy Tutoring Program Coordinator, recognized Literacy Tutors who volunteer their time to work with students to help improve their reading, writing, and math skills and work toward getting their HSE diplomas. She thanked them for the hours and hours of volunteer time, noting the accomplishments of their students that came as a result of the commitment and hard work of both tutors and students.
Daria Krivosheey, owner of DK Photography, was the photographer for the event. Daria was a student in Vita’s “Grow Your Own Business” Integrated English Literature and Civics Education class, which combines English language learning and professional training to start or expand a business.
Vita’s teachers were recognized for their dedication and support in helping students achieve their goal. The crowd applauded the success of the students and the contributions made by teachers and tutors.
Over 75 people attended Vita’s Volunteer Appreciation Brunch on April 27 at Spring Mill Manor. It was a celebration to recognize Vita’s literacy, ESL and Decisions tutors; office volunteers; and Vita’s volunteer Board of Directors for their hard work dedication, and commitment to making a real difference in the lives of our students, their families, and our community.
Vita’s three tutoring coordinators each introduced their programs and Vita Voices relating to them. Vita Voices is an ongoing project that celebrates the lives of Vita’s vibrant community of students, tutors, teachers, and staff. The stories, told though their own voices, offer powerful insights into their dreams, struggles, and accomplishments. Vita’s valued tutors have been instrumental in this effort, volunteering to be recorded interviewing their students.
After eight years at Vita, preceded by 40 years in secondary education, Peggy Blanco has retired from teaching at Vita. Over the years, Peggy had been both an English as a Second Language and a language arts/social studies GED instructor. With an unwavering dedication to helping students achieve their goals, Peggy has been a true inspiration to hundreds of students. Her grateful students presented her with a handmade commemorative artwork piece with their thumbprints as leaves on a tree, inscribed “May you be proud of the work you do, the person you are, and the difference you make.” Peggy certainly has made a difference in countless lives and she will be missed by students, teachers, and staff alike.
Decisions For Change (DFC), our cognitive skills program for adults on probation and parole, was recently evaluated. Results showed that six months after DFC, 56% of those who completed the course had their cases successfully closed compared to only 29% of those who did not complete it. Read All About It