The Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program at Missouri State University-West Plains now offers services at 10 additional locations in south-central Missouri. Staff members include, seated from left: Patricia Todd of the Salem AEL office; AEL/College Readiness Coordinator Joan Wright; Millie White, Houston; Lori Lane, Mountain Grove; Brenda Miller, Ava; and Liz Harris, West Plains. Standing: Teresa Acord, Mountain View; Lena Walsh, Mountain Grove; Becky Colvin, Birch Tree; Donna Tomory, Houston; Brenda Collins, Willow Springs; Dean Belshe, Licking; Vickie Sillyman, Cabool and Houston; and Jimmie Walters and Linda Erzinger, West Plains.

The Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program in Houston is among 10 locations now under the umbrella of services offered by Missouri State University-West Plains.

The university began oversight of the new locations July 1 when the grant for the previous provider, the Houston R-1 School District, expired. Services are now offered through MSU-West Plains at Houston, Licking, Salem, Mountain View, Birch Tree, Willow Springs, Ava and Mountain Grove and two locations in Cabool, in addition to its location on campus. 

“The director at Houston announced plans to step down earlier this year and approached me to see if we would be willing to take them over.  She thought it made sense since we operated a program here,” said Joan Wright, coordinator of AEL and college readiness programs.

With the blessing of the Scott Dill, superintendent at Houston Schools, as well as university officials, Wright said she sought and was granted approval from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to begin managing the programs at the other sites.  DESE oversees grant-funded AEL programs across the state, so officials there had to approve the change, she explained.

In addition, DESE granted additional money to the West Plains program to help cover operational costs at the other sites for the next year.  Wright said this is the last year of a three-year contract awarded by DESE to the university to offer the AEL program.  Officials plan to reapply for the grant for the next three-year cycle to continue offering the program at all 11 sites, she added.

The AEL Program is a preparatory program for area residents who want to take the state’s high school equivalency exam, the HiSET, which is offered through the university’s Advisement and Academic Coaching Center for Empowering Student Success (AACCESS) office.  The program provides free assessment in reading, math and language skills and offers free training to those who are weak in any of these skills so they can successfully complete the online examination, Wright said.

In addition to the AEL Program, Wright said her department also offers college readiness programs and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.  The college readiness program provides free assessment services to determine skill level and ability of area residents who want to attend college.  Residents who are weak in certain academic areas can receive free help from program instructors to develop the skills needed to be successful in college, Wright said.

Beginning this fall, the West Plains location will offer the university’s Pre-Algebra (MTH 20) class free to university students who qualify, Wright said. 

“Students who have scored a certain level on the COMPASS placement test or ACT test will be able to take this class without having to pay the course fee normally charged through the university,” she said.

Area residents who need to develop conversational English skills also can receive free help through the department’s ESL classes, Wright said. 

“These classes provide practical training in English that will improve conversational skills and allow residents to conduct everyday business with employers, business owners, government agencies and other situations in which interaction is required,” she explained.

Wright said area residents needing any of these services can contact the AEL office closest to them and schedule an appointment.  Offices currently open include West Plains (417-255-7744), Houston (417-967-8520), Ava (417-683-2765), Mountain Grove (417-926-1025), Cabool (417-962-3050 for Cedar Bluff Community Center location or 417-962-5314 for Drury University Cabool Campus location), Salem (573-729-2756) and Birch Tree (573-996-6269). The office in Licking (573-674-3264) will reopen July 21, and the office in Mountain View (417-934-2999 or 417-247-2822) will reopen Aug. 12.

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