College in the neighborhood
By Diane Haag
The (Shreveport) Times
College once seemed worlds away from many poor residents of the Cedar Grove neighborhood.
Lack of education, transportation and money has kept many of the neighborhood's residents from pursuing higher education.
Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal has managed to merge those worlds through an expansion of its Adult Renewal Academy.
"There are some talented people in the community," said Gloria Millender, director of the academy. "They can use it against the community or for it. We're trying to tap into that and change lives."
The academy was started to remove those barriers from residents of low-income neighborhoods trying to get their GED.
"Our heart is to set people free from all bondages," Millender said. "We'll help you with all obstacles."
Through a partnership with Louisiana Technical College and St. Catherine Community Center, the first college-level computer class was offered in the fall.
Millender said it took some convincing to get the first students to enroll - several don't have their GEDs - but they have done very well. Everyone in the first semester made an A.
Hair stylist Beverly Smith said she used to have to pay someone else to design flyers and other advertising for her business.
"Now I can do it myself," she said with a proud smile.
Three days a week, about 12 students are meeting at a computer lab at St. Catherine for a keyboarding class. Six months ago, many of them knew little if anything about computers.
Now eager, confident students go in and start their work without even being prompted by their instructor, Monica Burns, of LTC.
"They learned so quick," she said. "They surprised themselves."
Another goal is better job placement, which has been an unofficial part of the program so far. Burns said she has done research for students on what they need for certain career fields and helped point them in the right direction.
"It just takes one person to believe in them," she said.