Seeds of Literacy provides individual tutors for adults working toward GED
by Laura Fratus

(Plain Press, April 2005) It is a Tuesday morning in the Seeds of Literacy classroom at 2007 West 65th Street, and every seat is full. Students chat about their car troubles and their kids as they wait to fill their coffee cups.

On the other side of the room, Program Manager Angela Eldredge is greeting two newcomers who have dropped in to find out about this tuition-free adult literacy and GED preparation program, while Site Coordinator Christine Lee begins pairing students with available tutors.

“Hey, it sounds like a playground in here,” jokes Tyrone Terry, looking up from his social studies chapter.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Within a few minutes, the room has settled into a hum of productive activity. By the end of the two-hour tutoring session, many of the students will have achieved more academic progress than they did in a whole week in high school.

Executive Director Bonnie Hogue Entler says that the key to the program’s success is its format. Rather than providing group instruction as in a traditional classroom, students here work one-on-one with trained volunteer tutors. This allows all students to work entirely at their own pace, to enroll at any time during the year, and to attend as regularly as their home and work schedules allow without falling behind.

For some students, like Terry, entering the program was the next natural step in re-directing a life that had been complicated by early fatherhood coupled with drug and alcohol problems.

He entered a 12-step recovery program and began attending job readiness sessions.  By earning a GED, he says, he thought he could provide a role model for his children. “They would see that their dad had worked hard to better himself.”

Having left school in the 11th grade and failed in his first attempt at taking the GED without preparation, Terry entered the Seeds of Literacy program in fall 2004. He has now passed two out of five sections of the official GED practice test, which is administered by only six programs in Cuyahoga County. 

Upon passing the other three sections of the practice test, he will earn a waiver that will allow him up to three tries in one calendar year to pass the GED — without paying the $55 testing fee.

Wanda Torres also sees how working toward her GED gives her credibility when she urges her daughters to study hard and stay in school. Torres left high school in the 9th grade, because “I never felt like I was smart enough.”

She worked fast food and childcare jobs, but when she recently found herself unemployed, she knew it was time to finally heed her mother’s advice to give Seeds of Literacy a try. “Even to clean toilets, you have to have a diploma,” Torres says.

Seeds of Literacy has grown steadily since it was organized by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1997. The total number of active students attending sessions at the program’s ten sites across Cleveland now rivals the enrollment at a small high school.

Entler attributes the growth to word of mouth and a corps of dedicated volunteers that allows the program to give attention to each student. Students who have found the help they need here often bring in more students with similar needs and goals.

Before entering the Seeds of Literacy program, Torres contemplated going to an unaccredited “diploma mill” company where, for a fee, she would be able to get a high school “certificate” without necessarily completing the work herself. But she discarded that idea, concluding that the reward of a real diploma was worth the time and effort. Besides, she says, “I know now that I’m smarter than that.”

For more information about Seeds of Literacy’s adult basic literacy and G.E.D. preparation programs call 651-4302.


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