AMERICAN FALLS — Instead of buckling up for the ride to Pocatello, American Falls residents can now find free education and support services in their own city at the new Community Learning Center.
The center, located at 827 Fort Hall Ave., hosted an open house event on Nov. 6. At the facility, residents can access counseling services and support from different agencies, departments and programs, geared toward helping people develop skills and explore career options.
“I am thrilled because now instead of navigating to Pocatello, we can all just walk down the hall,” said Angie Harker, the center’s family development specialist. “Before it was too crazy and difficult. Now I can coordinate and it works out well.”
Some of the agencies who provide services include the Idaho Department of Labor, the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Community Mental Health Services. Southeastern Idaho Public Health also offers the programs Parents as Teachers, which provides information that helps parents learn how to build their young children’s physical, intellectual and social development, and the program Women, Infants, and Children, which provides nutritional information and health screenings among other things.
Idaho State University has brought several programs to the area, as well, including Adult Education, Center for New Directions, Continuing Education and Workforce Training, and START.
Its College of Technology Adult Education provides GED preparation classes in language arts science, social studies and mathematics and offers English as a second language classes, which will help many people in the area grow in their careers, says David Zavel, who is part of ISU’s customer service outreach.
“I think because there are so many Spanish speakers (in the area), any English skills are going to help them in day-to-day life,” Zavel said. “A lot of these employees at like Lamb Weston and Driscoll (Truck Center) need English to advance in their jobs. It’s a hinderance to them not knowing, so it’ll be a great thing for them and the community.”
Director of Adult Education Korey Mereness further stated that their ESL classes can work in tandem with the other services provided at the Community Learning Center.
“What’s really neat is that sometimes (people) can go from improving their English language skills, get the confidence out of it, and then go on and get their GED,” Mereness said. “That’s why we partner real strongly with the Community Council of Idaho which is right next door. The idea was we wanted a mini one-stop shop where we could give referrals.”
Mereness said Superintendent Randy Jensen told him about plans for the learning center about a year and a half ago, and he was hopeful that ISU’s Adult Education would be a part of it.
“We’re excited because we have all these other partners that are in here right now,” Mereness said. “And a large part of our support comes from the county commissioners here in American Falls. They really support us so I wanted to give a shout out to them, and obviously Randy Jensen, and Marc Beitia. Beitia offers his students who are bilingual … to come out and tutor our ESL learners. I would also like to thank Judge (Paul) Laggis. He refers clients to us and is a strong supporter within the judicial system for our program.”
Adult Education moved into the learning center back in September and started their GED prep and ESL classes about a month and a half ago.
What makes the center unique, said Christine Brower, an Adult Education math instructor and administrator, is that it gathers together a myriad of different services into one place that will help the community progress.
“In addition to the awesome collaboration between all the agencies, we are able to provide services to parents of young children that produce success for parents and results in generational success,” she said.