Waukegan library breaks down barriers with Spanish GED

Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 10:57de la mañana

By Judy Masterson jmasterson [at] stmedianetwork [dot] com January 18, 2014 7:24PM
For the Lake County News-Sun


Gloria Velez kept hearing from co-workers at the Waukegan assembly plant where she works that she had to get her GED.

“What’s a GED?” the recent immigrant from Colombia wondered.

In one visit last year to the Waukegan Public Library, Velez, 47, the mother of a teenage son, learned that the high school equivalency diploma meant better prospects. She quickly enrolled in the library’s Spanish GED preparation course and within six weeks, she had passed all five GED subject exams in addition to a test on the U.S. government.

How did she do it?

“The instructors, my commitment and a desire to keep learning,” said Velez through a translator.

In her pre-GED life, Velez would have been satisfied with a job as a personal assistant. But now she intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is also volunteering as a Waukegan library “promotoras ambassador” or outreach worker.

“The work the library is doing to put people on the path to literacy is my passion,” said Velez, who recruited her sister, who has lived in the U.S. for many years, and six co-workers for Spanish GED.

Thirty-two Spanish speakers earned a GED after studying at the library last year. Another 37, of the 98 enrolled in 2013, passed at least three of the required exams. Nearly 100 people were placed on a waiting list.

The library, which last year received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, started the volunteer-led class after hearing from a growing number of patrons who said they had failed to pass a GED pre-test administered by the College of Lake County. Some came in search of the four-inch thick GED test prep book, but didn’t know “how to even begin to study,” according to Carmen Patlan, library manager of community engagement and Spanish literacy services.

“If they didn’t pass that test, a lot of them simply gave up,” Patlan said.

The library’s Spanish GED is structured to include educational levels from second through eighth grade. Some students are barely literate in their native language.

Volunteer GED and English as a Second Language instructor Fabio Gomez, a middle-school teacher in his native El Salvador who also obtained a GED, said it’s a struggle to teach to so many levels.

“But there’s no other place that can help these people,” Gomez said. “They know what they need: to finish the GED and learn English.”

Students enrolled in CLC Spanish GED numbered 247 in 2013. Raiana Mearns, CLC dean of adult basic education GED and ESL, said the college can’t enroll students until they test at the ninth-grade level − a requirement of state grant funding.

“We’re very happy to serve them − at that level,” Mearns said.

But that leaves a lot of people behind, especially in areas like Waukegan where 45 percent of Latinos have less than a high school education “not because they don’t have the skills to succeed,” Patlan said, “but because they struggle every day with cultural barriers that include language, health, and transportation.

“If we can break down barriers that keep them from succeeding, the ripple effect on families and our community − from better-paying jobs and promotions to enrolling in college classes to the help they can give to their children in school − is huge,” Patlan said. “Every student who walks through our doors is investing in their future and we are excited to be a part of that.”

Waukegan Public Library honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Post date: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 12:49de la tarde

Public invited to take part in a “Day of Service” for Vista Health System patients

In 1994, Congress designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national “Day of Service” in honor of Dr. King’s dream that Americans from all walks of life can come together to strengthen our communities. On January 20, the Waukegan Public Library will take part in the initiative with activities that include a theatre presentation, film, and community service project for Vista Health System patients.

From 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., community members have the opportunity to create get well cards that will be distributed to patients of Vista Health System. All of the supplies will be provided by the library on the main floor and lower level. The greeting cards will be presented to Barbara Martin, Vista Health System President and CEO, by U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (IL) in a ceremony at 5 p.m. in the Bradbury Room.

“This is a wonderful initiative sponsored by the Waukegan Public Library and a great way to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Martin. “We deeply appreciate the kindness of people in Waukegan to write get well cards for our patients who are being treated in our hospitals. We look forward to personally handing out the cards to our patients at Vista Medical Center East and Vista Medical Center West. This event is one more example of the strength of our great community.”

Directly following the community service presentation by Congressman Schneider, Waukegan theater group, Three Brothers Theatre, will present dramatic readings of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech and his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech as well as the poem Abundant Hope by Maya Angelou. Participants will have a chance to write down their dreams and pledges for peace to be hung in the Library.

In the afternoon, the Library will show the film “Remember the Titans” at 1:30 p.m. in the Bradbury Room. Based on the actual events of 1971, the film portrays an African-American coach, played by Denzel Washington, who leads a racially integrated high school football team that becomes the unifying symbol for the community

“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. exemplified a lifetime of service and nobly dedicated his life to the pursuit of equality and justice for all. Today, MLK Day is an opportunity to enliven and enrich Dr. King’s legacy and cause through a commitment to community service,” said Representative Brad Schneider.

About Vista Health System

Vista Health System is a network that includes: two hospitals in Waukegan – Vista Medical Center East and Vista Medical Center West; the Vista Lindenhurst campus that includes the Vista Ambulatory Care Center, Lindenhurst Surgery Center, LLC, the Vista Freestanding Emergency Center, and the new Vista Medical Office Building; and several locations for imaging, patient therapy and physician practices. Vista is a Center of Excellence in a number of key service areas and accredited in Bariatric Surgery, Cancer, Chest Pain, Congestive Heart Failure, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation and Stroke. To learn more about Vista Health System, please visit

We Want Your Opinion!

Post date: Monday, January 13, 2014 - 1:51de la tarde

There is still time to fill out our facility survey! The deadline is Wednesday, January 15th at 10:00 am.