WNC News & Notes: Literacy, language coordinator transforms lives

Angela Andrade-Holt knows she’s in the right place. Western Nevada College’s new adult literacy and language coordinator has the opportunity to witness firsthand how education can transform lives. Helping students eliminate obstacles blocking their path to a higher education is a daily reward.

Andrade-Holt created and organized the first English Language Transition class at WNC in 2010. She spent two years developing and teaching ELT classes, then transitioned into WNC’s GED program.

“To be a part of helping somebody get a leg up and that support system is really great,” she said. “The job can sometimes get hectic; the thing I love the most is the people.”

After all, education helped transform Andrade-Holt’s life when she returned to school in her early 30s after years as a homemaker and being self-employed. While she was taking classes toward an associate’s degree, a neighbor pointed her toward an opening for helping students learn English at WNC.

“I hadn’t taught a class before, but I had tutored,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I getting myself into?’ But once I taught that class, I knew that was it, so I geared my education to that.”

Andrade-Holt taught beginning through advanced English Language Learning classes at WNC while earning her bachelor’s degree in linguistics. Then-WNC adult literacy and language coordinator Teri Zutter approached her about developing a transition class for students. As a result, she created the numerous GED boot camps that WNC offers annually, enabling most students to pass the exam on their first attempt. The intensive, free program includes five weeks of instruction and one week of review. The boot camp meets four days a week for 3.5 hours per day.

“It transforms lives,” Andrade-Holt said. “We witness that time and time again with so many students who come in facing many barriers, and go on to get their GED. We watch them take those barriers and kick them aside, and come to take classes here at the college and get a degree.”

A variety of obstacles might deter students from completing their high school education, Andrade-Holt said. She has seen students overcome homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce and the inability to speak English.

In one case, she watched WNC’s program help a student improve her understanding of the English language to the point where she earned her Certified Nursing Assistant license, completed WNC’s nursing program and went on to UNR to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Andrade-Holt said her time working with Zutter was invaluable and helped prepare her to oversee the program.

“She established an excellent program,” she said. “Her leadership created a good framework; it allowed me to be pliable, resilient and understanding of the needs of others.”

Now, Andrade-Holt’s main task is managing the federal grant that funds the literacy, language and GED programs at WNC. In addition, she oversees curriculum planning and design, class scheduling, professional development and training.

Among her goals, Andrade-Holt wants to streamline the registration process. Students looking to take the GED exam will soon discover more test offerings in a new testing center on the Carson City campus.

Ultimately, the department exists for those who want to better their lives through education, she said.

“Our mission is to serve those most in need and hardest to serve,” Andrade-Holt said. “Anything that we can do to accomplish that goal is where we want to head.”


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