2017-08-01 / Front Page

Adult learning center to expand with River Street move

By KELSEY CHRISTENSEN

Vermont Adult Learning Center Regional Manager Lori Brown (left) and Director of Operations Joe Przyprehart (right) inside 100 River St., the future location of the learning center. The Windsor VALC is currently located at 363 River St. — KELSEY CHRISTENSENVermont Adult Learning Center Regional Manager Lori Brown (left) and Director of Operations Joe Przyprehart (right) inside 100 River St., the future location of the learning center. The Windsor VALC is currently located at 363 River St. — KELSEY CHRISTENSENSPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The Vermont Adult Learning Center (VALC) will gain space, visibility, and connectivity when it moves to its new location on Sept. 18. Currently located on 363 River St., the nonprofit will be moving to downtown Springfield at 100 River St., the former Fellows Gear Shaper Company building and current home of the Springfield Health Center.


The VALC serves seven counties in the state of Vermont and works with students to help them earn their high school diploma, GED, and gain vocational and ELL training.


In the current location, Windsor County’s VALC boasts two classrooms, reception and office spaces, a small kitchen, and even a room in which students with children can breastfeed privately.


“The size is fine for what we use it for, but the new space will give much better access to transportation, and we hope the new location will give us opportunities to create community partnerships,” said Lori Brown, VALC regional manager.


VALC has been at 363 River St. for five years. Prior to that, the learning center was one of the last occupants of the former Fellows building before it was purchased for development in 2008. The return to 100 River St. will mean greater proximity to other community sectors — Springfield High School and the River Valley Technical Center, Springfield Health Center, and the Department of Labor, to name a few — as well as improved visibility.


“Just to have that sign out of there that says Vermont Adult Learning Center [will give us] increased visibility. It’s always sad to run into someone in their 20s who could have used us and didn’t know anything about us,” said Joe Przyprehart, director of operations at VALC.


All of the services at VALC are free, made possible by state grant funding.


The new site will expand the number of classrooms at VALC from two to three. It will also feature a full kitchen, helpful not only at lunch time, but also for course offerings that prepare students for culinary careers.


The new space will also offer running water in the science classroom, and boast a computer lab and meeting space.


“We hope that we can have meetings with community partners and be a central meeting location,” Brown said.


VALC works with a variety of students on their academic and career goals. Brown and Przyprehart point out that, while their youngest student is 16, they’ve also helped students in their 60s earn a high school diploma.


“We’re here to help people meet their goals,” said Przyprehart.


VALC works with schools to create individual learning plans for their students to earn diplomas, but they can also help students transition to college classrooms with language and math skills courses, or connect students with vocational training.


“Springfield has jobs, and needs employees with basic math and communication skills, and we can help with that,” Brown said.


VALC can also help place students in careers that start at good wages, but gradually provide more opportunities to ascend the career ladder.


“One thing that’s a big push in the state is certifications,” said Przyprehart. “There are many careers with stepping stone certifications that get people into the workforce.”


Just one example of this lies in the health industry, where prospective nurses can begin as LNAs and work their way up to RN by continuing incremental professional development.


Whatever the starting point, or the goal, VALC focuses on individualized and project-based learning to help students reach their goals.


“You could take cooking classes with King Arthur Flour and we’d work with them to pull the math from that,” Brown said. “We try to meet the student where that student is. A student has to participate in their education to make it here. You have to dig in and find yourself as a learner.”


In 2017, VALC graduated 30 students in Windsor County.


“It’s the most feel-good work: we’ve really got that cornered,” Brown said.

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