Adult learners work towards their goals at through Adult Education and Literacy at Blue Ridge Community College. (Photos by Rich Keen, Marketing and Communications Dept.)

The Power of Adult Education and Literacy: Preparing Adult Students for Success

Featured photo: Adult learners work towards their goals at through Adult Education and Literacy at Blue Ridge Community College. (Photos by Rich Keen, Marketing and Communications Dept.)

By Emily Gill, Marketing and Communications Dept.

The Adult Education and Literacy program, a fundamental piece of Blue Ridge Community College, has a simple mission: to meet adult students where they are and prepare them for success.

To ensure college and career readiness, Blue Ridge’s Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program provides tuition-free individualized assistance to adults 16 years of age or older.

The program includes services such as English language acquisition, High School Equivalency preparation, digital literacy, Integrated Education and Training, and more.

“All our student plans are custom-built based on what the student wants to accomplish,” said Dean of Adult Education and Literacy Robin Paulison.

These plans are built through the career-oriented Bridge Lab, which helps students identify and start working towards their goals. The Bridge Lab allows students to tackle multiple goals at a time.

“For example, one student was developing foundational skills in math, reading, and writing with us while he completed an escort certification through Continuing Education. Now he is working towards his Nurse Aide I certification,” Paulison said. “We help prepare students for a better job while they work towards completing their High School Equivalency exam.”

The Bridge Lab also adapts to each individual student’s needs, and instructors play a key role in helping to identify those needs. When the Mechatronics Apprenticeship program lead reached out to AEL staff on behalf of students in need of mathematical support, AEL created a contextualized math course to help the students better understand mathematics, particularly within their area of study.

Woven through the AEL program is the vital skill of digital literacy. Sometimes students need help navigating the digital aspects of education; AEL steps in to provide assistance and support to build those skills.

Because of their success in providing direct, individualized, and contextualized support for students, AEL has presented their methods at conferences and hosted observations for numerous other colleges to see their services in action.

A major part of AEL’s success is the Integrated English Language and Civics Education program, which builds language skills while students are in curriculum programs. In short, it focuses on English language learners and the necessary language skills for their area of study.

Another original aspect of the Adult Education and Literacy program is the Integrated Education and Training (IET) model which enables services and opportunities for students to work on a college program while also working towards improving language skills, or obtaining a high school equivalency or adult high school diploma.

IETs have been particularly helpful in local correctional facilities as a means to assist offenders with successful reentry into the community.

“In the Corrections Education program, we go into the Transylvania Detention Center and provide services on site,” Paulison said. “The Corrections Education program focuses on building skills quickly, as turn over in the detention center is high. We may only see a student for 15 hours or less before they are released, so our goal is to ensure these students are leaving the detention center with stackable credentials by the time of release.”

To reach that goal, AEL built an Integrated Education and Training course in hospitality and tourism. This module has digital literacy and language acquisition embedded into the 12 hours of class time and earns the students a credential through nationally recognized Guest Service Gold. With these credentials and certificates, the students are prepared to work with a transition coordinator at United Way to help them find jobs in the hospitality industry.

Paulison encourages anyone seeking further education as an adult to expand their view of their future.

“There is more to Adult Education than getting the high school equivalency diploma or improving language skills. While important, these goals are a stepping stone to higher education and training, better employment and self-sustainability,” Paulison said. “We can help with successful college and career transitions by focusing on a student’s short and long term goals and by providing the appropriate support. Students need to explore the many options available to them and the multiple avenues they can take to achieve their goals.”

For more information about services and support from Adult Education and Literacy, please visit our website at or call at 828-694-1745.