Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

The ALC’s Catherine Mahan awarded Volunteer of the Year by M.A.A.C.C.E.

The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with the Adult Learning Center’s Catherine Mahan, who was recently awarded the 2015 Volunteer Award from the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.

Catherine Mahan

Catherine Mahan

Congratulations on receiving this award!  How did you first come to be a volunteer at the Adult Learning Center?
Well, for most of my working career I ran my own design firm.  It was work I enjoyed, but it did involve long hours and some travel away from home.  I also raised two children, and I was active in my professional society.  So I had very little time for service work.  It was my plan to be able to do something to “give back to the Baltimore Community” where I had made my career once I retired.  I had actually planned to retire by 2008 but the economy was so bad, it wasn’t a good time for me to leave my firm (I was president!). So I decided to go ahead and do some of the things that I hoped to do in retirement while I continued working. I came to the Adult Learning Center in 2008 and took the training to be a tutor.  I taught ESOL classes right out of college, and have always been interested in Adult Literacy, so this was a natural fit for me.

Wow, we are so glad you did not wait to retire to become a volunteer with us!  What do you do as an ALC volunteer?
It keeps growing and changing!  Initially I tutored one-on-one with a woman who was from Korea.  We met once a week, which was all either of us could manage as she worked full time also. We met for several years until my schedule no longer permitted it.  I later became involved with a program the ALC developed called “Get That Job”.  I developed a training piece on job interviewing which I gave a couple of times a year when the ALC was running the program.  Then in 2010 I joined the Advisory Board, and I have worked on the Board ever since.  I was co-chair of the Scrabble Fundraiser in 2013.  I also continually work wherever I am out and about to shine the light on the ALC and to solicit donations for the terrific work that goes on there.

Your enthusiasm really shines through!  Can you tell us what you like best about volunteering at the ALC?
I have always liked working with other people towards a common goal, be it developing a good design solution for an office project or working on people’s language and communication skills.  But probably the best thing for me personally, is that I find that Greater Homewood and the Adult Learning Center are places where I have learned a lot and grown a lot myself.  Not only do the people here have a good heart, but they run a smart organization, and I am continually learning from them.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the growth of Adult Education in Baltimore?
There are a lot of barriers to accessing continuing education, and the ALC tries to address them when they can (getting bus tokens, providing notebooks or classroom materials, etc.)  As transportation is often an issue, bringing the classes into the community has been an important step, and the Center now has several “off site” classes.  The Adult Learning Center changed its name several years ago from the “Adult Literacy Center” when it became apparent that there were negative connotations to “literacy” and some learners didn’t want their employers to know that they were taking ‘literacy” classes.  The change to “learning” is a positive change.

What do you like to do in your time away from volunteering at the ALC?
I also volunteer at Cylburn Arboretum!  As I am a landscape architect, I greatly enjoy helping out with their projects and maintaining the two hundred acres of gardens and open space.  I also enjoy water color painting and printmaking.

Thank you, Catherine, for volunteering your time and energy to the Adult Learning Center.  And congratulations again on receiving the 2015 Volunteer Award!

24th Annual Adult Learning Center Achievement Event

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward. Intake and Assessment specialist JoAnn McKinney shared Ward’s words this past Tuesday evening at GHCC’s Adult Learning Center’s (ALC) 24th Annual Achievement Event, which celebrates the accomplishments of learners enrolled in ALC classes. More than 100 community members, ALC supporters, volunteers, and learners attended the event, which was hosted at the Second Presbyterian Church’s Smith Hall.622A7833

ALC director Garland Thomas kicked off the evening by highlighting some of the great accomplishments the center has made this year: including a dozen new GED graduates, 2 ESOL graduates who have moved on the Baltimore City Community College, as well as more than 50 adults enrolled in the ALC’s workforce development program.

As the guests settled in to their dinner, compliments of Yum’s Asian Bistro, assistant director Teddy Edouard began a series of recognitions by honoring Julie Ritchick as the ESOL teacher of the year. The evening featured a host of honors and acknowledgments including Learner Programs Coordinator Kimi Lillig’s recognition of Zachary Bass as the volunteer of the year. In speaking of Bass’ contributions Kimi 622A7869noted that “…As our Computers I and now Computers II instructor, he patiently instructs and guides our learners to understand and use the computer in their daily lives.  He goes beyond simple explanation and ensures the learners in his class feel empowered and comfortable to solve their own technology issues. … [and] .  It’s that kind of dedication and care that I want to recognize and commend.”

For all those who attended, keynote speaker; the actress, dancer, teacher, and story teller Maria Broom, (best known for her roles in HBO’s The Wire and The Corner) was a true highlight. Framing her congratulations and support of ALC learners in the context of her own life, Ms. Broom weaved together a tale success and a message of persistence and dedication that undoubtedly inspired all who were present. “Do what you love” she repeated as she applauded the accomplishments of the ALC’s learners and reminded us all that happiness is the greatest achievement worth pursuing. By the end of her talk Ms. Broom had the entire room on their feet, dancing along with her, in celebration of themselves and in acknowledgment of the power and wisdom that every person posses. 622A7915

Following the keynote address, ALC staff continued to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of learners in the New Citizens, ESOL, and ABE programs. Of special note on the evening however, was Community Workforce director Chris Wilson’s recognition of one of GHCC’s first workforce connections graduates Kirk Bumbrey. Kirk, who Chris praised for his diligence and commitment to finding work, successfully completed the workforce training program last year and is now gainfully employed with White Cap construction.

The entire evening was a huge success. Though special recognition was given to some outstanding learners, volunteers, and teachers, as director Garland Thomas reminded us in closing, it was a night to honor the accomplishments and dedication of all those at the ALC. For the staff and volunteers it was a thank you, and for the more than 500 ALC learners across the city it was a testament to their dedication and in turn an inspiration for us all.

Bidding a fond farewell to Kim Bosworth

Kim Bosworth first came to GHCC’s Adult Learning Center (ALC) as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in 2003.  One year later, her commitment to Adult Education had earned her a spot as a teacher and full-time staff member.  Kim eventually became Assistant Director of the ALC, though she continued to teach reading to more than 200 adult learners each year.

photo 1“I’ve enjoyed seeing people become empowered to do things for themselves,” says Kim. “I’ll miss the teachers who have so much passion for what they do. I’ll miss the learners. They’re the reason why we’re here,” she said.

Kim remembers one of her students who had a multitude of health issues but struggled to read and fill out forms.  He would bring his wife with him to medical appointments because she could read and write. If he was alone, he’d pretend that he forgot his glasses and ask someone else to do the writing for him.  In response to this learner’s situation and others with similar challenges, Kim created a series of lessons that focused solely on filling out forms of all kinds.  One day, that learner came to class and told Kim, “I went to the doctor’s office alone and wrote what I needed to write.”

That sense of growth and accomplishment is not the only thing that motivated Kim during her time at the ALC; she also credits the teachers and staff.

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 “The learners who come to us haven’t been successful in other schools, they’ve failed all their lives and the fact that they still want to try at 60, 70 years old really speaks to the work we do here,” she says.  “They trust us enough and feel comfortable.  If they didn’t feel supported even when they’re frustrated, they wouldn’t come. We have a small staff, but we get stuff done and still have a good time.”

This mind-set remains embodied in the legacy Kim has left after over 10 years of service to the ALC.  Teachers, learners, volunteers, and staff alike will truly miss her and wish her the best.

“I don’t think of myself as accomplishing things alone; we all have a hand in the collective successes here,” says Kim. “I’ve always kept the focus on answering ‘What can we do to set up everyone who walks through our door for the greatest chance of success?’”

As Kim transitions to her new position at Anne Arundel Community College, she has some parting advice: “Be mindful of what you’re doing and no matter what happens keep a sense of humor.”

Good luck, Kim.

Tutor Pair Spotlight: Richard and Roza


A newly released report by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies showed that adults in the United States ranked below or near the bottom in basic math, reading, and problem-solving compared with other developed countries.

This has major implications for the workforce and our society in general since citizens with low-literacy skills are at greater risk for becoming unemployed, earning poverty-level wages, and being in poor health. That’s why the Greater Homewood Adult Learning Center offers quality, learner-centered instruction at no charge to adults ages 16 and older.

With fall classes starting up, we checked in with one of the Center’s 22 tutors about her progress working with one of our learners.  Roza has been working one-on-one with Richard for 9 months, meeting weekly to work on blending sounds to make words.

“I enjoy Richard’s positive attitude most,” Roza says.  “He doesn’t let things stop him. He says ‘I’ll try’, he’s always willing to try.  He’s up for anything.”

Roza and Richard have been working on reading and writing skills.  Roza writes the stories that Richard dictates so he can see his stories on paper.  They do a variety of exercises with his stories to help him decode words and read the story from beginning to end.

“He has great stories,” Roza says, “and if we write them together, he can work on reading them.”

Richard is one of the estimated 810,000 Maryland adults needing literacy services – that’s more than the entire population of Baltimore City!  We celebrate his commitment to learning and Roza’s commitment to Richard.

GHCC’s Adult Learning Center leads GED Test Training

To teach Baltimore City literacy providers, community programs, and city residents about the upcoming changes to the GED Test, state agencies chose our very own Jo Ann McKinney to dispel rumors about the test and educate Baltimore City on the facts.

Jo Ann will be hosting one three-part training session on Saturday, October 5th at the Greater Homewood Community Corporation office. She will discuss in detail the changes to the GED test beginning in January 2014. Some of these changes include:

• Computer-based test, written test option will no longer be available
• 4 content areas instead of 5
• More rigorous content- especially surrounding career and college readiness skills
• Current scores expire, scores from before 2014 will not carry forward
• Reading and interpreting multiple texts – e.g. a text passage and a graphic

As the Intake and Assessment Specialist for the GHCC Adult Learning Center, Jo Ann knows firsthand how these changes will affect literacy program participants. By becoming a computer-based test, this will force potential GED test takers to gain the requisite computer skills needed to feel comfortable with the tasks they have to complete on the test. The Center has been preparing for this change by providing basic and intermediate computer classes each term for learners.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR), the Division of Workforce Development (DWD), and Adult Learning-Adult Education and Literacy Services (ALAELS) provided the initial training for Jo Ann and city contacts like her. They presented information and strategies to manage the quick-approaching changes.

Anyone interested in attending must contact Jo Ann at before Friday, September 27 at 3pm. The training is free for DLLR, DWD, or ALAELS funded programs and individuals. The cost for individuals and programs that are not state funded is $150 and $450, respectively.