Socorro Independent School District’s Department of Community Education has seen notable growth over the last few years and expects some 900 adult learners to enroll this school year.
“Word is getting around that we are a quality program and we are producing individuals who are ready to work, can transition to college or ready to start a vocational career,” said Mary Jo Ochoa, career pathway and transitions coordinator.
The Community Education staff is happy to serve SISD community members who are taking advantage of its free courses. The department has expanded the variety of classes offered to benefit adult students.
“It’s happened through word of mouth,” said SISD Community Education Director Anthony Fraga. “An aunt will tell a niece; a mom will tell her brother and so on. We have added classes and have become creative with our schedule.”
The district’s Career & Technology Education department collaborates with the Community Education department to teach numerous classes, such as English as a Second Language, a citizenship course, and certification in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and electrical.
“Our CTE teachers are really great,” Ochoa said. “They are doing the vocational programs for us. Students see this as a great opportunity.”
The department also develops an educational plan for each student. For example, if English is a student’s first class, they might take a couple of semesters of ESL. The next step could be a citizenship class. Then, they move on to HVAC certification, which will hopefully lead to employment, Ochoa said.
“A free class is great, but the quality is better,” she said. “We are giving students an option rather than just having to go university, a community college or a vocational college. It could be expensive, and many are not able to do that. We are preparing them for entry level jobs to start their careers. They have an option to get an associate degree to move up.”
The success of the program was seen at its most recent graduation ceremony. More than 200 adult students celebrated earning their GED and/or earning citizenship or certifications for various vocations.
Elia Villalobos obtained her GED last school year. Now, the returning student has registered for the ESL class and computer certification. Her hope is to open a home commerce business.
“I never imagined this was possible,” Villalobos said. “But I did it. I feel so much better about myself and now I can help my family economically.”
Leticia Espinosa, who is determined to learn English fluently, is grateful for the school’s professionalism and instruction. With the community education classes, she has improved her English skills tremendously.
“I am here because it is important for me to improve my English,” Espinosa said. “I live in this country. I also am looking for a better job. I want to continue taking classes here. It’s good to learn.”