Good Shepherd wins U.S. grant for literacy work

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2010

The Good Shepherd Community Center is one of six community centers to share in a federal grant through the Mississippi Department of Education to continue the Even Start Family Literacy Program.

The $152,020 grant  — funded through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 — was awarded evenly among the centers.

The purpose of Even Start, initiated 10 years ago at Good Shepherd, is to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy through education for low-income families, said the Rev. Tommy Miller, Good Shepherd’s director.

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“It’s a program where the whole family is involved,” he said. “It’s a situation where children are learning with their parents.”

Participants in the program go through an application process, which is based on income level and need.

Miller said the money will be used to fund the program’s array of offerings including GED classes, early education program, parenting classes and activities such as field trips and educational workshops for students, as well as to buy four to six new computers along with Internet service to update the computer lab.

“(GED) students will be able to use the Internet for practice tests and for lessons,” program co-coordinator Phillip Williams added. “We’re trying to help them get their GED and move on with their life.” GED is an abbreviation for General Equivalency Diploma, a degree that indicates completion of high school studies.

Even Start has four students enrolled, but Miller and Williams, who is also the program’s GED teacher, are hoping the grant will allow the program to expand and accept more. Since its inception, the program has enrolled as many as 20 families each year, Miller said.

The grant may also be used to develop an English as a Second Language program, something Miller said there is a big need for in Warren County.

“We have Hispanic and Spanish-speaking folks here in Vicksburg,” he said. “We’re looking at maybe a night ESL class or one- or two-afternoon classes a week.”

“We’re trying to do this with the movement of the country, and help people who are having trouble with English,” Williams added.

Miller said the program is developing, but he hopes to have one up and running by the end of the year.

The grant immediately was used to spruce up the walls at the center. As part of United Way’s Day of Caring, volunteers from around the community were at Good Shepherd Thursday helping paint walls on the second floor, where classes for Even Start are held.

Williams said the painting supplies used were funded through the grant.

“We’re uplifting it to make a better learning environment,” he said. “There’s going to be mural painted on the walls by art students from the schools.”

Even Start was developed nationally in 1988 with appropriations of $14.8 million, and became state-administered in 1992 when appropriations exceeded $50 million.

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at