Without low-cost adult ed classes, ‘I couldn’t have gone on in school’

Pre-college skills taught in classes create new path to college

Posted 6/11/19

It had been 29 years since Aimee Diehl had last taken a math class. Having struggled with math in high school, the Lakewood resident believed the subject would stand in the way of her going to …

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Without low-cost adult ed classes, ‘I couldn’t have gone on in school’

Pre-college skills taught in classes create new path to college

Posted

It had been 29 years since Aimee Diehl had last taken a math class. Having struggled with math in high school, the Lakewood resident believed the subject would stand in the way of her going to college.

But she was determined.

“I was working a job I didn’t enjoy, and I just wasn’t making enough money,” she said. “I’d been stuck for years.”

Diehl had worked as a dental assistant and orthodontic lab technician for decades. But she dreamed of enrolling in a dental hygiene program. Encouraged by her family to look into school, she found herself walking into a math class on the Red Rocks Community College campus this January.

That math class, which covers various concepts from addition to order of operations, runs through The Learning Collaborative. The program is put on by the college and the Learning Source, an organization that offers adult education opportunities such as GED and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.

About five years ago, the two groups came together to create The Learning Collaborative and offer classes for students who would like to learn or relearn pre-college skills.

“I actually felt like I could do it because of these classes,” Diehl said. “If it wasn’t for this, I couldn’t have gone on in school.”

‘A safe place’ for pre-college students

The Learning Collaborative runs every semester and in the summer. While some students enroll in the class based on scores from the ACCUPLACER, a college placement test, some enroll or transfer in during the semester to refresh their skills.

Some, like Diehl, take traditional Red Rocks classes in addition to the math and English classes offered by the collaborative.

For math teacher Musette Sieminski, the program represents more than just a chance to teach academics.

“The students learn how to relax with math,” she said. “We want them to know if they’re struggling, they can ask questions. It’s teaching them how to be a successful college student.”

Volunteer tutors join the classes to check in with students and answer questions one-on-one.

“I love seeing people work toward their goals,” said Bob Steger, math tutor and retired engineer. “They aren’t there for a grade. We’re working with people who want to be there.”

The Learning Collaborative has grown considerably since its first year, bringing in about 60 students each term from all over the state, said Sara Molden, the program’s coordinator.

“There are people who drive a long way to be here,” she said. “It’s just a safe place if you have math phobia.”

Without the program, college president Michele Haney added, Red Rocks would have to turn away those who did not meet prerequisites — which, she said, is no small portion of the population.

According to data from educational campaign Educate and Elevate, 321,055 working-aged adults in Colorado do not have a high school education, and more than 20,000 of those individuals are unemployed.

Hoping to create new opportunities for these populations, as well as those who do not speak fluent English, The Learning Source partnered with Red Rocks.

Haney felt the program fit the college’s and the organization’s community mission.

Said Josh Evans, CEO of The Learning Source: “We wanted to partner to create an equitable solution.”

He added that, since the program moved onto the college campus four years ago —it previously was held at The Learning Source in Belmar — the sense of community between program students and Red Rocks students has grown.

“That was huge for helping the students feel like they belong,” he said.

Looking to the future

For Diehl — who first enrolled in the program in January, along with two traditional Red Rocks classes — the program will prepare her for necessary requirements to get into a dental program.

“Even though she was nervous, she’s done really well,” said Diehl’s 9-year-old daughter, Olivia, who often tags along to her mom’s classes. “Every time we look at her grades, she gets A’s.”

Diehl hopes to enroll in a dental hygiene program in 2020.

“If you really are serious about continuing with better goals in your life,” she said, “this is the best way to go.”

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