There’s as many reasons why people come to the Kitsap Adult Center for Education (KACE) as there are students at the center.
But they all have one goal in mind.
“To better themselves and to make their children’s lives better,” said Ann Rudnicki, executive director of KACE. “Each of them have their own story. Each of them have their own reasons why they weren’t able to complete their education. But they are all wanting to improve themselves.”
The center, formerly known as the Literacy Council of Kitsap County, is a community-based nonprofit with a mission to promote adult education in the county.
About two years ago, the name was changed to reflect all the elements of what the center does, Rudnicki said.
“We’ve moved away from the term literacy, although that is an important part of what we do,” she said. “Our main objective is to help adults reach their goals of more productive employment and participation in the community.”
There are two main programs, she said. One is aimed at helping English learners.
“About a quarter of our students are people who are learning English as a second language,” she said. “They may know English, but they may be wanting to improve their English skills.”
The other program includes helping adults who need to improve their skills or obtain their GED in order to get a better job or improve their place in the world.
Included in that group are people who need to improve their reading skills, math skills or basic education skills. Some left school for a variety of reasons. Others may have had a hard time in school due to a learning disability that went undiagnosed.
“We see adults who when they were in school they had a learning barrier that didn’t get any attention,” she said. “It could have been that they had family challenges such as a drug-addicted parent, violence in the home or even just being low-income where their parents were working two jobs and didn’t have the time to help them read.”
Staff and volunteers work with students in classroom settings. Or students can work one-on-one with a tutor at a convenient time and location such as a local coffee shop or library. There’s also a testing center in Poulsbo where students can go to take their GEDs and other standardized tests.
In the past year, the center has helped 400 students, with just a handful of employees and 70 volunteers. Those volunteers give more than 7,000 hours a year throughout Kitsap County. A board of directors of seven set policy for the center which has a number of funding sources including State Board of Community and Technical Colleges dollars, Community Block Grants, United Way funds, and donations. The organization was started 33 years ago by service groups and volunteer organizations.
In recent years, Rudnicki said the center has seen a number of adults, some in their 40s and 50s, come in wanting to get their GEDs.
“The job market is really tough right now,” she said. “We’ve seen people who have held a job for 25 years, who have now been laid off, and can’t get back in the workforce because they never graduated from high school. They know that they have to have that and they’re working on their English skills and their math skills so they can take the GED.”
Some students have started to study for their GEDs and then gotten distracted with life, only to return later to pick it back up.
“It has to be the right time,” she said.
No one is judged, she said. The center is there to help and will work with anyone who is serious about learning. The center has even helped students who are living in their cars or tents.
“They want the education and the GED so that they can go on to college or some other training in order to make a livable wage,” she said.
The students they see are very dedicated.
“Those who come here from other places and learn English, they take on so much,” she said. “And those who come back after being away from school for so long, they are serious about bettering themselves.”
Rudnicki loves to tell about how students who better their reading skills start reading for fun.
“One student just said ‘thank you’ because reading has just opened up the world,” she said.
KACE’s biggest fund-raising effort, the Corporate Spelling Bee and Auction, will be May 10.
Twelve teams of four members each will face-off in a spelling bee at the Olympic College Theater in Bremerton.
“It’s a really fun thing,” she said. “Each contestant can take a pass one time. And each person can use a ‘bribe’ once and donate extra money in order to stay in the bee if they miss a word.”
To find out more about the auction and bee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact KACE for classes, a tutor or to volunteer, email email@example.com, or call 360-373-1539. Their website is www.kacewa.org.