THE MIDLANDS LITERACY INITIATIVE AND ITS PARTNERS
The New Horizon Family Care Center exemplifies the MLI's growing involvement in family literacy. Since 1997, the program has provided educational services for Hopkins residents of all ages, from childcare to parenting classes to computer literacy. The program began with a small childcare center and has since expanded to include programs for adults and families.
According to staff members at the center, residents of Hopkins have low levels of education and many of the problems associated with poverty, including teenage pregnancy and substance abuse. Many need life-skills training, good childcare, and employment skills. Through various community partnerships, New Horizon offers an array of services aimed at meeting these needs, including:
The MLI and United Way support the center by obtaining grants and funding, and the center uses the MLI job-training program to aid Hopkins residents seeking employment. The director, Fannie Rumph, attributes much of the early success of the computer learning center to its partnership with the MLI. Ms. Rumph says that the support from MLI and United Way went beyond dollars or curriculum. She remembers MLI director Kathy Olson proofreading her first grant proposals.
Another important partner is the Progressive Church, which developed the idea for and housed New Horizon at no cost. The church donates classroom and office space to the program and pays for all utilities. The church also donated land for the new child- care center. Other partners include the Salvation Army, Richland One, and the Midlands One-Stop. New Horizon now serves 300 clients a year.
The Competitive Edge Computer Learning Center is a popular program at New Horizon. Students complete homework assignments on the Internet and adults learn how to use computer programs, search for jobs, and prepare resumes on computers obtained through a grant from the Knight Foundation. Many learners participate in a thirteen-week self-paced computer course in typing and basic computer operations. Learners see the importance of these skills in the current job market. They say that the course teaches them to not fear computers and prepares them for work in the “computer world.”
As New Horizon evolved to address more family needs, they joined with Success by Six to create the Tender Years childcare center nearby. Seventy-five children are now enrolled in programs at Tender Years, which opened a year ago. Although they are still new, the programs at Tender Years are full, and the center has plans to continue expanding its work in family literacy. While the children remain at the childcare center, the adults will go to New Horizon for adult education, computer literacy, and basic work skills preparation.