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Contact: Ann Hatch

For immediate release — Nov. 6, 2013

(DALLAS) — A new grant from the Walmart Foundation to El Centro College means careers and jobs for area Adult Basic Education students who need to obtain their GED or improve their basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics. The Walmart Brighter Futures 2.0 Project will provide $3.5 million to only 12 community colleges in the United States through the League for Innovation in the Community College.

The goal of the project nationwide is to provide low-income adults and older youths with the confidence and the skills they need to obtain middle-skill jobs and to become financially self-sufficient. In Dallas, that means helping low-income ABE students through partnerships with two nonprofit organizations — NPower Dallas Technology Service Corp. and Skill QUEST-Dallas.

“The program prepares those ABE students with low skills and low incomes to build their basic educational skills, receive some training and then transition to one of several specific career pathways — welding, health careers, computer information tech support and business office support specialist,” explained Pyeper Wilkins, associate vice president at El Centro College. “The career pathway the students choose will be based on their wants and needs.”

Gloria Smith, associate dean of continuing education at ECC’s Bill J. Priest campus, will implement the grant; El Centro’s award is approximately $233,000.

“We currently are working with approximately 50 Adult Basic Education students who have completed entry-level training courses but who still need to obtain their GED or improve their basic learning skills,” said Smith. “New recruitment will begin the first week of November, and classes will start in January. Skill QUEST-Dallas will help low-income/low-skilled workers obtain certification in health care and welding fields, while NPower will train veterans for information technology careers.”

Smith added, “These partnerships, combined with our own internal resources for both credit and noncredit courses, will help students choose options that can improve their adult basic education skills. El Centro and our partners also will promote student success by helping those students complete their training and/or obtain certificates or degrees that will help them improve their marketability with potential employers.”

Students who successfully complete the program will receive job placement assistance through a one-stop career center located at the Bill J. Priest campus of El Centro College. Select candidates also will compete to participate in paid internships that will last from seven to 24 weeks; those internships will provide them with on-the-job training and work experience.

Dr. Paul McCarthy, president of El Centro College, said, “El Centro College appreciates the generosity of the Walmart Foundation and the leadership of the League for Innovation that makes this work possible. We are honored by our selection. This program is fully aligned with El Centro’s mission, which is ‘Changing Lives Through Higher Education.’ El Centro’s staff members look forward to working with our national partners, plus our local business and community partners, to help make a difference by assisting low-income individuals prepare for middle-skill jobs.”

During the next two and one-half years, the League for Innovation will work with each of the 12 national recipients to develop programs and services provided through the Walmart Brighter Futures 2.0 Project grant. The League also will share best practices learned from the project with other community colleges throughout the country.

“The Walmart Foundation supports programs that provide people with ways to improve their lives through skills training, job readiness, job placement and support services,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “We are proud to continue our work with the League for Innovation and expect to help 9,000 workers gain the skills they need for today’s job market through this continued effort.”

In addition to El Centro College, which is part of the Dallas County Community College District, the 11 other community colleges funded are: Anne Arundel Community College (Md.); Central Piedmont Community College (N.C.); Cuyahoga Community College (Ohio); Delta College (Mich.); Kirkwood Community College (Iowa); Maricopa Community Colleges (Ariz.); Miami Dade College (Fla.); Moraine Valley Community College (Ill.); Santa Fe College (Fla.); Seattle Community Colleges (Wash.); and Sinclair Community College (Ohio).

When he announced the grants, Dr. Gerardo E. de los Santos, president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College, expressed confidence that the Walmart Brighter Futures 2.0 Project will have a profound and positive impact beyond the 12 colleges. “As with an earlier project funded by the Walmart Foundation, Brighter Futures 2.0 will lead to best practices that will expand the capacity of community colleges to enhance middle-skill job training opportunities. The League will be delighted to share the work of the 12 colleges with colleges around the country,” he said.

For more information, contact Gloria Smith at (214) 860-5725 or Pyeper Wilkins at (214) 860-2234.

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