When Jessica arrived in Houston County, Georgia, with her husband two years ago, she spoke very little English. A native of Mexico, she came to the Houston County Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP) as a student in the English language program (EL) and took courses in civics, reading, and writing. Like many of her fellow CLCP learners, Jessica found that the courses not only improved her language skills, but also gave her a greater sense of confidence and self-sufficiency. As she observed, "My husband is in the military, and the first time he went TDA [on Temporary Duty Assignment], I felt nervous and alone. The second time, I said "Go ahead, go!"
As a finalist in the statewide EAGLE (Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education) competition, Jessica traveled throughout the state giving speeches. After this experience, which "changed my life and made me feel more confident," she decided on a career in adult education. Jessica now teaches English to first-level EL students and will soon teach conversational Spanish courses to English speakers at the new Hispanic Academy.
Formed in 1998, the Houston County CLCP unites major community sectors—business, faith, government, media, and education—in three cities. With the support of these influential groups, the CLCP has strengthened services for adult learners and championed literacy as an important issue throughout the community. Working toward a ten-year goal to reach half of the county's estimated 14,000 people without a high school diploma or equivalent, the program, as of 2003, was more than halfway to its goal and state certification as a "Certified Literate Community." As a result, students like Jessica can learn to read, improve their English speaking skills, and participate more fully in their community as parents, workers, and citizens.