Literacy program on Carroll County campus of NorthArk is working to make a difference

Friday, July 3, 2009
Shelly McCall,director of education at the Carroll County Center of NorthArk

BERRYVILLE -- Studies show that there is a high rate of illiteracy in Carroll County.

Shelly McCall, director of education and the Carroll County Center of North Arkansas Community College, wants to change that.

Located in Suite 5 of Bobcat Plaza behind Kwik Kar Oil and Lube, the center offers four spacious classrooms which can easily accommodate 20 to 30 students.

Adult education, literacy and basic college level classes are available, including math, English and psychology.

"Our mission is to help those in poverty and who are illiterate," McCall said, "and with the high illiteracy rate in this part of Arkansas, it is really beneficial."

The programs have been around since the 1960s when VISTA was launched, and with President Barak Obama in office, they are being reinvigorated.

VISTA is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. VISTA offers service opportunities to those 18 years old and older. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or lawful permanent resident aliens.

AmeriCorps members work with many groups, including the Literacy Volunteers of America, the American Red Cross and many others, in both cities and rural areas, serving a minimum of one year. At the end of one year, they receive a $4,725 education award, and after two terms the award doubles to $9,450.

Some colleges and professional schools match the AmeriCorps award, which can make a major difference when it comes to college costs.

Application deadline for AmeriCorps and VISTA is July 6.

The literacy programs are conducted as a satellite operation of NAC in Harrison, with seven classes scheduled for this fall, starting Aug. 19. While not all classes can be taken in Berryville, the college will work with students to schedule classes for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or Tuesdays and Thursdays, to cut the driving distance.

McCall is particularly interested in enrolling parents and adults in Adult Education. "When those who never finished high school get involved, their self-esteem takes off," she said. Classes are smaller with 20 to 25 students and much one-on-one teaching and access to a computer lab, which is also open to any NAC student.

English as a Second Language is also offered.

"Working with illiteracy makes a difference in employability, health -- all the way around," McCall said.

She also emphasized that first-generation students should consider the center. Classes are very casual, and with a community college "they can see that they can do the work and go on," perhaps to the University of Arkansas -- something that may have seemed unattainable.

The Carroll County Center of NAC has job openings in Workstudy and for a classroom aid and office assistant.

The classroom aid/office assistance is part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program and will start in August, assisting the Northark College Adult Education program and at the Carroll County Literacy Council. Duties will vary, but may include office support, tutoring, community outreach, marketing and assisting instructors. Applicants must be prepared to commit to a 12-month contract.

Needed skills and qualities are knowledge of Microsoft programs, professional and friendly demeanor, good judgment, flexibility, and ability to work without direct supervision with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The position offers a living stipend of $833 per month, an end-of-year stipend of $1,200 or a $4725 educational award, health and prescription benefits, childcare assistance, and preferred status when applying for federal jobs.

Applications for the classroom aid/office assistant position must be submitted by July 6, and may be picked up at the center in Berryville.

Workstudy is a part-time position for Northark students who qualify for financial aid. The position will be a general office/classroom aide, assisting instructors and office staff. Duties may include one-on-one tutoring in basic reading or math, answering the phone, and minor clerical and other classroom assistance. Pay is minimum wage and hours will be about six to 10 hours per week, with the schedule varying according to the student's schedule. Bilingual and strong computer skills are a plus, and the workstudy position would be beneficial for an education major.

For more information about Workstudy, VISTA, adult education AmeriCorps, Adult Education, or English as a Second Language, call McCall at (870) 423-6371.

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