ACES puts adult learners on the right path
For Thomas Lear, there’s more to the adult education program at Laramie County Community College than academics.
Lear is the lead instructor for English as a Second Language and civics courses in
ACES, which stands for Adult and Career
Education Services. ACES is designed to help students develop the skills necessary for continued education or meaningful employment through combined training in academics, communication skills and college and career transitions.
ACES is open to anyone 16 or older who has left the education system, been pushed out of the system or never had access to it, including immigrants and refugees. Those people face a lot of different barriers to advancing their educational or career goals, Thomas says, but ACES staff are there to help overcome obstacles.
“The reason I love my job is because we do more than just teach,” he says. “Whether that’s helping students with immigration status or paperwork or just connecting them with the right person in the community, we want to help them accomplish whatever it is they’re looking to accomplish.”
ACES includes several components. Adult Education programming is for individuals wanting to improve their reading, writing and math skills.
There is High School Equivalency Certificate (HSEC) Preparation, helping students prepare for taking HiSET™, which is offered through ACES, and GED 2014®, which is offered through the Exam Lab. For those with a high school diploma or equivalency, Adult Secondary Education courses help students with improving their academic skills to upgrade their employment or pursue further education. English as a Second Language is for non-native English speakers wanting to enhance their communication skills for the workplace or life in general.
In addition to language skills, ESL students become more integrated into society by learning about American culture, customs and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Finally, Summer Bridge Classes are available for individuals wanting to brush up on their skills before college classes start in the fall.
There can be a lot of obstacles for those left out of the education system, and financial barriers can be particularly difficult to overcome. That’s why Thomas wants to help people understand that the non-credit courses offered in ACES come at no cost to the student. For the costs that come up, such as testing, he says there are scholarships available that help those in need.
Federal and state funding administered by the Wyoming Community College Commission covers the cost of ACES.
It’s an important investment of public monies, Thomas says, because state and national graduation rates are not what they could be. For those looking to improve their economic standing and life in general, ACES is the entry point.
“We are that first step into job training, certification, credit programs,” Thomas says. “We provide access to higher education and job training that otherwise would not be available to many of our people.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those without a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $606, compared with $749 for high school graduates, and $874 for workers with some college or an associate degree. For 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year-round, higher educational attainment was associated with higher median earnings, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For example, in 2020, the median earnings of those with a master’s or higher degree were $69,700, some 17% higher than the earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree. In the same year, the median earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree were 63% higher than the earnings of those who completed high school.
“Education is access to higher earning potential and then, of course, that’s going to put money back into the economy,” Thomas says. “It’s better for Wyoming if we have a higher educated population.”
Fall 2022 marked a special occasion for ACES at LCCC because there are more students who have completed ACES programming taking college classes in diploma and certificate programs this semester than ever before.
“That’s one of our big pushes, getting our students into LCCC [taking classes for credit], and this fall we have our largest numbers ever,” Thomas says.
For those who are interested in pursuing education and career goals but are concerned the hurdles they have to jump are too high, Thomas says they should feel confident. ACES staff have seen it all before and want to help those who are willing to help themselves.
For Thomas, that ability to help those in need is what will keep him coming back to ACES.
“I can’t think of a job right now that would tear me away from teaching here, because the impact you have is real,” he says.
For more information or to reserve a space for classes, contact LCCC’s Adult Career and Education System at 307.637.2450 or visit lccc.wy.edu/academics/services/adulteducation.