Carminia Briones has a new appreciation for what her four children go through each day at school.
The 41-year-old housekeeper and Mulberry resident recently signed up to take evening classes as part of a new program designed to better serve Spanish-speaking adults, and help them earn their high school diploma.
Briones (pictured), who last attended school about 20 years ago in Mexico, said her children — ages 19, 17, 13 and 5 — have been encouraging her as she heads back to the classroom. She knows what life is like for them as students.
“Now I understand my children,” she said, grinning behind her blue mask. Briones added that her children even help her with her homework.
The two adult schools of PCPS are offering the Spanish GED (General Educational Development) program to residents 16 years and older. After successfully passing the GED exam, students are awarded a State of Florida High School Diploma and are considered a high school graduate.
“Unfortunately, language barriers create an extra obstacle for people who want to improve their education and access to better paying jobs,” said Steven Cochran, PCPS’ senior director of workforce education. “What if we could help break down that barrier? We wanted to create a program where teachers can cover GED preparation in Spanish while also helping students improve their fluency in English.”
Classes began a few weeks ago, and approximately 40 students so far have participated.
East Area Adult School is operating both online and face-to-face classes. West Area Adult School has partnered with RCMA, a nonprofit organization serving migrant and rural low-income families, and is conducting face-to-face classes at the RCMA campus in Mulberry.
Carlos Alexis Lugo, who has been teaching classes at the RCMA campus, said his students range from 19 to one woman in her 60s. Some have high school experience, and others haven’t stepped into a classroom since elementary school.
“They come from eclectic backgrounds,” Lugo said. “There are students who are homemakers or have jobs in agriculture and construction. Some students don’t have jobs and are looking for one. They all know a GED opens more doors of opportunity for them.”
“As a teacher, I’ve been gauging everyone’s abilities and working to address their needs,” Lugo added. “I also want them to know this is a welcoming environment. We are going to learn, and learning can be fun.”
Adriana Lopez, 34, a Mulberry resident with two children, said getting a GED would be a major step toward her goal of entering law enforcement. “As a police officer, I can help people,” she said.
Although she can speak English, Lopez said she appreciates having a teacher who also communicates and covers lessons in Spanish.
“I like it,” she said. “I’m learning.”
Registration is still open for the Spanish GED program. Students will need to take a $20 entrance test, and tuition costs $30 per semester. For more information or to register, please call East Area Adult School (863-965-5475) or West Area Adult School (863-499-2835).