This year, HACC partnered with George Armstrong Elementary School in West Rogers Park to host a GED class. More space means another free class, and the students, who are majority mothers, have the childcare for elementary aged children while they study.

“Partnering with neighborhood schools is a natural way to extend our mission of building self-efficacy through education into the community,” said Moon Parker, Adult Education Coordinator, and “As educators, we know that the greatest factor of children’s success are their parents.”

Fatima (above) is a mother and student in the class. She came to the U.S. from Morocco in 2009, and then had three children. In 2013, she came to HACC to learn how to speak English and speaks fluently today.

But the classes largely comprised of immigrant mothers, some of whom do not speak English fluently. Mickie O’Kearns, the GED teacher, said that the class and school are a setting where students can trust their children’s caretakers as opposed to a daycare center where they might not understand the services or be able to research the facility.

Fatima said that she is grateful that HACC has the class in Armstrong Elementary, where her five-year-old goes to school, and she can bring her one-year-old, Heedaya, to class.

“They make exceptions for me when [my daughter] cries,” Fatima said, “That’s the main obstacle for moms, to have places that accept kids.”

Fatima has her GED from Morocco, but jokingly explained that she needs to “wipe the dust from my brain” for topics like algebra and geometry.

“The math is totally different in my country. The way we solve them is not the way my [older] daughter showed me. I need to know their [American] way because she’s young and I don’t want to confuse her,” Fatima said.

The students have made incredible gains in reading and math comperhension. Almost every student has made a grade level gain in just 10 weeks.

Fatima said she dreamed of pursuing higher education in Morocco, but once she immigrated had to care for her young children while her husband worked 12-hour night shifts as a truck driver. This GED program allows her to brush up to both help her children and prepare her go to college once they are older.

In the past, HACC’s Adult Education Department has successfully partnered with Joyce Kilmer Elementary School. This new partnership between HACC and Armstrong Elementary has been excellent, but the ability to continue may be contingent on State funding next year.  For now, HACC is looking forward to continuing to work with the school and provide accessible and high quality adult education classes.

*A giant thank you to the Armstrong Parent Advisory Council–they were instrumental in bringing the program to the school. It was their insistent advocacy and investment that made this idea into a reality. The PAC leadership is an awesome group of women who get things done!

Written and photographed by Rachel Hoffman