RAS Lit Zone

RAS Gains Literacy Zone Status
Posted on 11/09/2018
RAS Hosts New Parent Support GroupThe BOCES Consortium of Continuing Education (BCCE) has received a federal grant to create a Literacy Zone in the City of Rome and operate a Family Welcome Center at its Rome ACCESS Site. It is the third Literacy Zone that BCCE operates.

Literacy Zones are reform initiative intended to help close the achievement gap in communities with high rates of poverty and low levels of literacy. Literacy Zone providers offer or coordinate services to help address literacy deficits in their designated community, including high school equivalency preparation, family literacy support, English as a Second Language programs, workforce development program, interagency connections, transition support for veterans, out-of-school youth and adults leaving incarceration settings, and support for senior citizens, individuals with disabilities and families living in poverty.

“We’re excited to be able to offer these services and resources to the Rome community and support their community literacy efforts,” BCCE Director Kathleen Rinaldo said. “We’ve had great success is our other Literacy Zones and we hope to replicate that success in Rome.”

BCCE has operated the East Utica and West Utica Literacy Zones for nearly 10 years, offering services through its Utica ACCESS Site and other community sites, such as the Utica Public Library, Resource Center for Independent Living, and currently the Veteran’s Outreach Center.

RAS students attend high school equivalency classIn Rome, programs will primarily occur at the ACCESS Site on West Dominick Street. That site has long provided high school equivalency, ESL and community education classes to adult learners. Now, RAS will also serve as a Welcome Center, offering programming and information about community resources and life skills to anyone who walks through the door, whether they are enrolled in adult education classes or not.

Several years ago, RAS Site Coordinator Rita Kenyon and Case Manager Michelle Sebastian committed to regularly bringing in community agencies to talk with students. Presenters have included Mohawk Valley Community College, Catholic Charities, New Directions, Eat Smart New York, ACCESS-VR, YMCA, Kids Oneida, Planned Parenthood, Oneida County Health Department, On Point for College, Healthy Neighborhoods, Department of Social Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A calendar with a schedule of community presentations is on the wall at RAS and most students have been attending most of the events, Sebastian said. Topics have included smoke detectors in the home, parenting support groups, healthy relationships, flu shots, properly using car seats, nutrition, transportation, financial literacy and a variety of other issues.

student in HSE class“We know that if something is going on at home or in their life, that affects their schooling. But we’ve put a lot of effort into showing them that we are a resource and this is a safe and helpful space, and it has made a noticeable difference,” Kenyon said.

Through the Literacy Zone designation, anyone in the community can attend those presentations and stop in for assistance, and the RAS staff can increase their outreach and awareness efforts for these programs and their literacy classes.

“If we don’t have an answer for someone, we’ll make a few phone calls or help them find the right resource,” Kenyon said. “Our doors are open to everyone.”