The Need

A recent study conducted by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) found that one in six adults in the United States has low literacy skills. That is 36 million adults. One in three has low numeracy skills. Read more about the effects of low literacy skills here.


ProLiteracy estimates that low literacy costs the US $225 billion each year due to lack of productivity in the workforce, crime, and the loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. An increase of just 1% in literacy scores leads to a 2.5% rise in labor productivity and a 1.5% rise in GDP per individual (2004 The Economist).

According to a 2005 study by the US Department of Education, 50% of the chronically unemployed are not functionally literate.

How Adult Education Can Help

Studies show that improved reading, math, and computer skills are associated with better wages and more stable employment. Read more here.

A GED® increases earning power and job prospects and opens the doors to higher education and training programs. The job market is shrinking for those without a diploma. A recent study out of Georgetown University projects that by 2018 only 10% of jobs will be available to those without a high school credential; 63% of jobs will require some type of training or education beyond high school.

Better skills also lead to higher rates of civic involvement. A study conducted by Educational Testing Service in 2012 found that 60% of those with low academic skills feel they do have no influence on public decisions and the political process. Better skills are also correlated with increased rates of volunteerism.

English Language Learning allows immigrants to secure family-sustaining jobs and become part of the community. Immigrants who are English proficient earn between 13 to 24% more than immigrants who are not. 60% of immigrants who are eligible for citizenship but do not become citizens have limited English proficiency (2007 Urban Institute).

Educating adults helps children and families too. A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the greatest determinant of a young child’s future academic success is the reading level of the mother.

Our Programs

We serve over 450 participants a year across our core programs of GED® Preparation, Adult Basic Education, ESL (English as a Second Language), Nurse Aide Training, and Workforce Development. We have helped hundreds of students obtain a GED® diploma, improve their reading and math skills, acquire English language proficiency, secure employment as certified nursing assistants, develop workplace skills, enter employment, and prepare for better jobs.

Our Students

Renata has been a student at ESC for six years, and we have all watched as her English language skills have improved greatly. It is a testament to her hard work and diligence that she has had so much success.

Renata is from the beautiful coastal town of Florianopolis in the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil. She and her Brazilian husband have been living in the United States while her husband works as an After Marketing Director at Volvo CE in Shippensburg. They have made the small town of Shippensburg their home, and Renata has become familiar with Carlisle as she travels here for English class twice per week (prior to COVID).

Renata’s life in Brazil included her career as a social worker in a psychiatric and rehabilitation facility treating people with alcohol and drug addictions. She received her social work degree at Santa Catarina University. She described how the experiences brought her closer to not only the patients but also their families. She is grateful for the experience and the opportunity to help people improve their lives. Her generous spirit continues here in the United States as she volunteers her time once a week at Menno Haven Retirement Community working in their thrift store. She works in the receiving room sorting and pricing items that are donated to benefit the community. She enjoys the opportunity to speak English with other volunteers and the residents of Menno Haven.

When asked about some of her favorite aspects of living in the United States, the first thing she mentions is that she feels safer here and that she enjoys the kindness of the people she meets. She also likes that things are close and there is little traffic in comparison to Brazil. A true American tradition that Renata also enjoys is a good cheeseburger with bacon and sweet potato fries! Just don’t add any pickles or BBQ sauce! One American tradition that she says she and her husband are still not big fans of is the lack of a true lunch hour! In Brazil, she says that it is custom to have a lunch hour with a full meal and enjoy time talking with co-workers. They don’t eat lunch at their desks or have meetings during this time.

Renata has made a great impact on all of us working at ESC. She has been a student of several of the ESL teachers, whom she describes as “very smart,” and has made many friends in the classes. She is quick to note that she enjoys learning about the other cultures that so many of our students represent and that she is grateful for the impact they have had on her. In her words, “My husband and I are here because we want to be here, but some people are here because of very difficult situations.  I am grateful for my wonderful life.”

Cammie came to ESC in April 2022. After high school she worked multiple jobs, including a couple of years as a Cast Member at Disney World.  She started college with the idea that she would go into education, but something felt off. “I went into the program trying to obtain my certification to be a nurse aide, but I really was confused on what I wanted to do. I did not know if I wanted to continue my career (in education) or maybe try something else. This program gave me the opportunity to pursue that.”

She was initially nervous about going through the Nurse Aide training, but in the end she felt ready to take on the challenges ahead. “This program prepared me immensely for the HACC class and clinicals. I felt so prepared.” During her time in the Pre-Nurse Aide training, she quickly proved to be an excellent student. Her final average score was 99 out of a possible 100, while her lively personality helped create a fun and effective learning environment for all of her classmates.

Cammie completed her CNA training through Harrisburg Area Community College in July, and will be taking her state exams in the near future. We are incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication she has shown, and she continues to be an example of what you can accomplish if you are willing to work for it. We asked Cammie what she enjoyed most about this program. Here was her response: “My favorite part of the program was how helpful all the staff was the entire time. If I needed a question answered, they were there to help. They were friendly no matter what, and that made coming to class so much easier when I was scared. The class itself all together was another favorite part I had. From the first day to the last day, I had fun. This program made learning fun for me. If you are thinking about doing the nurse aide program or any other program, DO IT! You will not regret it. ”

Younes moved to the Carlisle area from Morocco and began ESL classes at ESC in December 2016. He wanted to improve his English speaking skills in order to achieve better employment here in the U.S. Although Younes holds a Master’s degree in computer science and has a Microsoft certification, he knew that finding employment in his field would be difficult if he was not fluent in English. Since beginning ESL classes, his English has improved greatly and he has even earned a promotion in his job at a local logistics company. When discussing his promotion, he said “English is the key. It helps me communicate at work and also in the community.” He plans to continue attending ESL classes as long as needed. He enjoys doing presentations and speaking in front of the class. “I am proud to be here and study in class with Ms. Kim, she is very helpful. I wish the classes were longer.”

Julissa and James have been students at ESC since September 2016. Julissa enrolled in ESL, while James enrolled in GED classes. Originally from Honduras, Julissa has lived in the area for 3 years and worked at Amazon full-time. She began attending ESL classes in order to improve her English and eventually enroll in GED classes. While James finished classes and received his GED in April, Julissa continued to attend classes in the Spring and was able to complete her GED in July. She was accepted into Real Estate school and hopes to become a licensed realtor, where she can put her background as an Architect to good use. When asked what she enjoys the most about ESC and how it has impacted her life, Julissa says “the people that work here are amazing, the teachers give us confidence and a place where we feel safe.” She added that attending classes has improved her communication with her kids’ teachers and in her day-to-day life. She wishes there were more classes during the week in order to spend more time practicing her English.

Roshelle earned her GED in May 2022. While her achievement would be worth celebrating without any other context, what makes this special is the incredible perseverance Roshelle displayed while working towards her goal. She first began working toward her GED in 2016, and faced many personal and financial hardships along the way. Through it all she never gave up, and with sheer determination she successfully passed her final test. We would like to congratulate Roshelle as she continues to prove what can be accomplished if you never ever give up!