Brandon Fowler has been meeting weekly at Cazenovia Public Library with his tutor Gary Johnson for more than a year. Before enrolling in the program, Brandon didn’t know how to prepare for the HSE exam (formerly known as the GED) and wasn’t sure he could balance work and weekly tutoring at the same time.
“When I first signed up, I was nervous about meeting a new tutor and having homework,” Fowler said. “But my tutor Gary made the HSE (high school equivalency) course fun and exciting.”
Changing work schedules, car problems, family responsibilities: all of these have presented obstacles at one point, but Brandon is determined to stay the course and complete his high school education.
Learning widens his horizons and has brought new friends into his life, Fowler said.
“The program gives me a second chance to get an education,” he said. “Also, I have gained new friends willing to help me. I wish I knew more people like Gary and others at Literacy Outreach who have helped me along the way.”
Preparing for the HSE exam, which is an eight-hour exam given over two days, involves studying for five academic subtests. Students need to pass each subtest, as well as get an overall passing score. The five exam areas are math, science, social studies, language arts-reading and language arts-writing.
Cazenovia is one of eight public libraries in the Mid-York system that offers HSE literacy programs through the support of Madison County Reads Ahead. Literacy tutors trained by MCRA work one-on-one with learners at their local library during hours that suit their schedules. Tutoring programs are learner-centered and can especially help students who find they don’t get enough attention in a classroom setting.
Studies show that library HSE programs like Cazenovia Literacy Outreach are valuable contributors to the economic health of a community. Close to 50 percent of adults who don’t finish high school receive some form of public assistance. Other costs to communities include lost earnings and lost tax revenues. Communities with a low literacy population can find it difficult to attract new business investments. Boosting the number of high school graduates in a community, among other benefits, brings increased purchasing power to grads, builds jobs and local economic growth, and leads to higher tax revenues.
Johnson has been a literacy volunteer for close to nine years. Literacy work, he says, is a way to stay connected to the community and to make new friends. He has helped many learners pursue their dreams and earn a high school diploma. As a tutor, Gary has worked at all three of Cazenovia Public Library’s literacy sites, including CazCares and New Woodstock Free Library, and has weathered the transition from GED exams to the new HSE exam.
“It is amazing to me how great it feels when learners achieve their goals,” Johnson said. “It’s wonderful to have helped make that happen.”
HSE programs at Cazenovia Public Library’s Literacy Outreach and Madison County Reads Ahead are free of charge and open to adults over the age of 18 who are able to meet weekly for tutoring. Tutors work with learners in three categories: adult basic education, English for Speakers of Other Languages and preparing for the HSE (high school equivalency) exams.
For more information about library HSE programs and high school equivalency exams, call Program Director Tara Truett at Madison County Reads Ahead, at 315.345.1468.