Specialist: Adult education opportunities empower the community

Noah Alexander (left), Dorothy Robison Cates (center), and Madison Morgan stand outside the Kentucky Skills U facility located in the Violet Loop housing complex in Princeton. The Kentucky Skills U and other adult education services are offered to Housing Authority of Princeton, Violet Loop residents and Caldwell County residents.

PRINCETON — Adult education opportunities at the Kentucky Skills U office at the Violet Loop Housing Authority of Princeton enable tenants and Caldwell County residents to attain educational goals and improve livelihoods.

Adult Education Specialist II Dorothy Robison Cates prepares her students to take the High School Equivalency, sometimes referred to as a GED. She has been coordinating and teaching at Violet Loop since 2015.

A component of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, Skills U is a free education program that is available to any eligible Kentucky resident.

“Hopkinsville Community College has the grant for Christian, Trigg, Caldwell, and Todd counties,” Cates said. “They wrote the grant and were awarded to take care of those counties.”

Cates noted that her students do not return dissatisfied with the skills and experience they’ve acquired or express frustration in securing a job, locally.

Cates said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, her enrollment has decreased, despite many resources and tests going online, adding enrollment is affected by seasons and other socioeconomic cycles.

“We try in every way to reach out to people and help them be successful,” Cates said.

Currently, the HSE test is being offered for free, a benefit of the Skills U program.

Skills U serves Kentucky’s 120 counties to help students obtain an HSE. It develops students’ educational skills and helps them gain workforce experience, according to the Skills U government website.

Skills U resources help students pay for the HSE, other tests, school materials, and assists with work-related purchases, among other financial supplements, the website indicated. — It’s a multifaceted initiative that institutes an education-first principle while allowing students to work and learn.

The Youth Workforce Connections (YWC) is a program that is funded by the West Kentucky Workforce Board. It offers HSE assistance — the program is for students ages 18 to 24, according to the program’s website.

The program aims to uplift and support students who are “economically disadvantaged and face barriers to appropriate employment,” officials said.

The program primarily prepares students to enter the workforce by placing them in training programs, identifying accessible internships, and offers mentorship and other resources, according to the website.

Noah Alexander moved to Kentucky in July from Indiana. Once settled in, Alexander explored career paths — he arrived at Cates’ office in July.

He said he wanted to move his education forward by obtaining an HSE and began working toward a career in the medical field.

“Everybody here has been kind, attentive, and helpful,” Alexander said. “It’s hard to explain how much more I like this than regular school and work.”

Alexander said he was afforded an opportunity during a transitional period in his life that demanded acute care.

He said the YWC’s program coordinator, Jordan Brock, has been a major asset in his life.

Brock has provided Alexander a mode of transportation on numerous occasions and is working tirelessly to deliver job training and college opportunities, Alexander said.

“He is trying to get me a job before he gets me into the classes that I don’t have to pay for, and on top of that, he is trying to get me a CNA job before I get the certification,” Alexander said.

Another Skills U student at Violet Loop is Madison Morgan. She’s currently assisting Cates at the Skills U office, fulfilling the program’s volunteer and work requirements.

She participates in the Ready to Work program, a partnership between the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services.

Morgan said her original plan was to acquire an HSE to get promoted at her job.

“Dorothy here decided she wanted to talk me into going into college,” she said.

Morgan said the dependability and interaction she gets participating in Skill U is appealing and rewarding.

Her previous employer, Hydro-Gear, recommended the program to her.

She said she is working toward a career in education.

The Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program and the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship offers Skills U students monetary assistance. Cates said these two programs fund a large portion of her student’s coursework and job training.

KTAP uses federal funds to provide family medical assistance to children and helps parents secure employment and develop job skills, according to the program’s website. WKRS assists eligible college and high school students earn an industry‐recognized certificate or diploma.

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