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They may be in a new space, but their mission is the same: helping residents better their lives.

The Tate County Literacy Council moved to new digs in June of last year, and they're putting all that extra space to good use, filling it with students improving their study skills and taking GED tests.

"We went from eight chairs to 28, plus nine computers," says Jim Brown, head of the Literacy Council. "And we have more in our classrooms."

And the program continues to grow.

According to Brown, who has worked with the program since 2006, the council was formerly housed in the Technical Building on the Northwest Mississippi Community College campus. It moved to the Workforce Development Building, a structure previously housing the Tate County Soil and Water Conservation District before moved to a new building on Robinson Street. It operates as part of the Adult Basic Education program at the school.

However, Brown says that students who are in the literacy center are not students at Northwest.

They offer a range of services, all for free - like GED test prep and other study courses. They also offer literacy tutoring, but don't have many take them up on that service.
"We know they're out there, but we have a hard time promoting literacy - because those who need it can't read," Brown said.

Most of their "advertising" is through word-of-mouth.
Brown recommends that students who need the council's services take a Test of Adult Basic Education to gauge their skill level.

"Some are ready [to take the GED], some need a little refreshing; and some need help."

For those who just need a little brushing up, the council offers a GED Express Course. Students in this fast-track program can take the GED in five weeks. The intensive class meets from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Students qualify on the basis of their test scores.

Although the classes and textbooks are provided for free through the literacy council, there is a $40 fee to take the GED.

The GED classes are taught by Brown and Sherrye Pattridge, but they are not allowed to administer the test. That is done by independent staff.

The test is given once a month in Senatobia. Those interested in taking the GED need to stop by the council office and pick up an application.

Brown says that 53 students have passed the GED at the Council since July 1. Over 200 students have passed through the center in the past year - some just getting information, others working on specific skills like math.
Brown says that most students continue on to the college level - some at Northwest, others at technical schools like ITT Tech. Some go into the military.

Whatever they do after they take the GED, Brown says the students are "more employable because of the educational function level" and the study skills they acquire.

"This is about trying to help students learn how to study and prepare for the next level," Brown says. The program helps students learn structure, and the value of coming to class. They are also given practice to take home.

"These students have a higher maturity level," he adds. "They're here because they want to be here."

Students ages 17 and up are eligible to take the GED at the TCLC. If they are only 17, they must provide proof of their withdrawal from school.

Although no volunteers are being used during instructional time, Brown says they can be used for one-on-one tutoring. The Literacy Council also has an all-volunteer, 10-member board.

Something that is very vital to their operation are community donations. The council, a 501(c)3 non-profit. depends upon help from Northwest, grants, and individual donations. Unfortunately, the economic slowdown has caused a slowdown in giving as well.

Anyone wishing to send donations can mail them to P.O. Box 7012, Senatobia, MS, 38668 or call the TCLC at 662-560-5223.

The Tate County Literacy Council is open Monday-Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. -4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.

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