Pima Leads the Way in Arizona


When Briana came back to school she knew she wanted to pass the GED and get that behind her. She wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do beyond that, but she was confident it wasn’t a lifetime of part-time customer service or restaurant jobs.

This spring, Briana will celebrate her achievements. She will attend the HSE Graduation Ceremony, where she will celebrate receiving her HSE diploma, and the PCC Graduation where she will receive her Medical Assistant Certificate.

Thinking back on where she started – no high school diploma, or any experience in healthcare, she said she feels fortunate, and recognizes that “there’s a lot out there for you — you just have to want it and seek it.”

We were excited to be invited by Assistant Secretary Scott Stump — from the U.S. Dept of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) –, to participate in an invitation only convening in Washington D.C. this week.  Approximately 60 leaders, with demonstrated commitment to supporting adult students into career pathways, were in attendance. Participants from the Department of Education, Department of Labor, Community Colleges, Adult Education State Directors and advocacy organizations like CLASP, COABE and National Skills Coalition met for a full day of panel presentations and problem posing to develop recommendations about the Ability to Benefit (ATB) option for GED-seeking students to obtain Federal Financial Aid.  CLASP Article:  Could 2019 Be the Year for ATB?

OCTAE had heard from a variety of stakeholders, including us, that additional technical assistance is needed in order to fully utilize the ATB provisions of the Higher Education Act. Increasing usage of the provisions has the potential to increase accessibility and affordability of quality training and education for low-income adult students and opportunity youth.

PCC started utilizing ATB with students in June of 2015 for GED-seekers who are enrolled in Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) programs. In all, PCC has recruited 151 IBEST students into 8 cohorts of IBEST since September of 2014. Using ATB has allowed adults who lack a high school diploma to access and succeed in postsecondary education and training.  Data show that 80% of IBEST students complete the postsecondary certificate.

In addition to Medical Assistant, PCC has developed IBEST programs in Machine Tool Technology, Industrial Technology and Logistics and Supply Chain Management. During the recruitment process, the IBEST program staff informs students about possible funding sources, including ATB for federal financial aid, and then supports students through the steps to apply for and receive those funds.

At the Convening, Laurie presented information about what we have been doing at Pima and some of the challenges to utilizing ATB. We were able to network with the OCTAE staff and leaders from other colleges and left with some great on the ground advice from national colleagues and concrete ways to increase the the number of ATB students, not just at Pima, but throughout Arizona. OCTAE will be issuing recommendations from the convening to multiple audiences with additional guidance for colleges.  

Finding a Career Through IBEST

For students without  High School Diplomas, college can feel like a distant goal, and a meaningful career sometimes is just as far. Often students think they “just need to get that GED”, or “just finish learning English” before even considering college. Students like Anthony.

Anthony (center) with students in the MAC IBEST program

Anthony joined our Adult Basic Education program with the goal of preparing for the GED® exam so that he could finally get his High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. While taking reading, writing and math classes at the          El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center, he heard about the new Machine Tool Technology IBEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) certificate program being offered at Downtown Campus. Anthony was so excited to learn about this, that he attended the required information session twice.

He learned that IBEST is an instructional model that blends basic skills instruction with career and technical course content. In this career pathways model, students without a high school diploma can study for the GED and industry-recognized certificates simultaneously. Adult Basic Education instructors, and career and technical instructors co-plan and teach each course. The contextualized instruction and integrated employability skills allow students to achieve their goals more rapidly and better prepare them for career success.

Anthony enrolled in the 22-credit Machine Tool Technology (MAC) IBEST program, and took classes in machining, computer-aided drafting, and technical math, while at the same time working on developing his skills in academic reading and writing, and employability skills through the additional instructional time provided in the IBEST model.  During the course of his program, not only did he improve his skills, he passed the GED® exam, earning his HSE diploma — all while he was studying in college classes.

At the end of last year, Anthony got a job with a construction company concentrating on federal and military facilities projects throughout the Southwest. One day last month, when he went into the office to clock out, he bumped into two of his project managers working with AutoCAD. He approached them and let them know that he had learned how to use SolidWorks – a similar program to AutoCAD – in the MAC IBEST program. As the managers continued to talk with Anthony, they learned about more of what he had studied at PCC and as a result, they offered him a chance to apply that knowledge in a new role working with the surveying team. Now, he travels between Luke Airforce Base in Phoenix and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, earning $15-$32/hour, depending on the day’s assignment. Anthony said that he wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity without what he had gained in MAC IBEST, and that he’s grateful to all of the support and skills that the program provided, which led Anthony to what he believes is not just a job, but a career.


PCC, first in the nation to Offer TEALS Curriculum through Early IBEST

The Adult Basic Education for College & Career (ABECC) Division is partnering with the University of Arizona STEM Learning Center and Microsoft Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program to offer a new Early IBEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) program in computer science (CS).

This Early IBEST is an integrated education and training program that pairs introductory computer science with basic skills instruction and career exploration. Early IBESTs provide adult learners at the intermediate level and above with basic skills instruction contextualized to a specific sector and integrated training that will support employment in that sector.  In this Early IBEST for Computer Science, an adult educator will partner with a trained teaching team from TEALS.

Microsoft’s TEALS program was designed to help high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs through partnerships between schools and the tech industry. The classroom teachers and tech industry volunteers work as a team to deliver CS education to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn CS in their school.  In an effort to build capacity to impact underserved and underrepresented populations, the Microsoft Social Catalyst program recruits, and trains as volunteers, college students who have studied computer science.  There are 344 high schools across the U.S. using the TEALS curriculum, but PCC’s Adult Basic Education for College & Career Division will be the first adult education program in the nation to pilot the TEALS model.

On Monday morning at 8am, 17 adult basic education students arrived at the El Rio Learning Center to attend an orientation for the Early IBEST in Computer Science.

Students shared what attracted them to the program:

  • One student wisely noted that computers and programing will be an important part of all jobs in the future.
  • Another stated simply, “I’m interested in a career in computer science.”
  • One young woman wants to learn how to “program video games.”
  • A woman who is currently a CNA said she is exploring other career alternatives.
  • A man from Mexico said he’s worked with computers since the 70’s but now he wants to learn to code.

The 2-quarter program launches next week.TEALS

Arizona Adult Literacy Week: Day at the Capitol 2018

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I was lucky to travel with a couple of awesome students for a visit to the Capitol during Arizona Adult Literacy Week.   Thank you to staff who helped arrange the visits and thank you to Isabelle and Haziel for telling your adult education story.

Read my guest blogger’s account of the day.

My Day at the Capitol during Arizona Literacy Week

by Haziel Lopez

Adult Education was a promising stepping stone in my life as it opened up many doors for me. I joined a student leadership council which prepared me in taking initiative during tough or hectic moments as well as having the courage to find a voice or even teach others to find their own when they feel that they aren’t capable of it. Though I have now moved on to continue my education at Pima college, I was still acknowledged for my success and given the amazing opportunity to share my experience with Arizona State Legislators on the benefits of Adult Education! Meeting with the Arizona Legislators was an amazing experience as it gave me better insight on the political environment and how it plays a key role in our day to day lives. I found this meeting to be very rewarding because not only was I there to help represent Adult Education and share a little bit about my background but the Senators and Representatives shared a story as well. It was comforting to know that they knew where I was coming from and that my story was relatable. Though I was a bit anxious to meet with people of such high political stature, getting to know them face to face made speaking to them a lot easier. We laughed and also cried together and given that we met briefly, I found the time spent to have been very empowering and moving. Though this was meant as a way to let Legislators know the importance of Adult Basic Education, I found this to be an amazing experience as I had a lot of fun doing it! I would really like to encourage others who understand the importance of education to not only represent it, but to appreciate it as well. Education is not just important, but it is endless as well. You never stop learning which is what makes education so vital. Adult Education really gives people a second chance to achieve their dreams and to represent something as valuable as that is always something in itself to treasure.




Happy New Year

Welcome to 2018! I hope everyone had a relaxing and rejuvenating break! I know things are nearly in full swing with classes starting after the MLK Jr. Holiday on the 15th.

Reports from Collaborative Curriculum Development Days (C2D2) were very positive. C2D2’s purpose is to provide time and space for teachers from all locations of ABECC to come together and develop/maintain our curricular units.

I heard that the two Math presentations were excellent and teachers from each of the PLCs say they are excited about and planning to use one of the units they saw presented.

Sarah framed the day perfectly: Why do we do this curriculum work? The ADE and PCC (HLC) require us to have curriculum. WIOA requires that our curriculum is aligned to the Arizona Adult Education Standards. Our curriculum needs to be fully contextualized to careers – Thanks to Lisa for helping us dive deeper into that topic. And of course, we have a deep history of valuing teacher-created curriculum. It’s our foundation.

I will be coming around the centers for “Regina Chats” every so often, as well as swinging by for meetings and such. Feel free to invite me to cool stuff happening at the centers or in your classes.

We have a rock solid management team – maybe the best we’ve ever had. We need it, because change will continue to happen, rules and requirements will continue to regulate our work, more money is probably not in our future, and student expectations will continue to evolve….. we are ready for it!

Welcome back!



C2D2 Lisa 2017


Mrs. Suitt goes to Washington!

COABE Capitol Hill Day 2017

I had the great pleasure and honor to attend the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) Capitol Hill Day on September 26th, 2017.  As COABE’s Student Engagement Chair, I was most excited about offering some training for student leaders and being present for the first ever student run meeting with Robin Juliano, from the House Committee on Appropriations.  Robin was extremely impressed by the students!

Maria Alvidrez, from the wonderful Queen Creek Adult Education Program represented AZ and attended all of my visits.  We met with staff in Rep. Gallego, Rep. Grijalva and Senator Flake’s office and met with Rep. O’Halleran.

The student Ambassadors did a phenomenal job running the meeting, telling their stories in a succinct and powerful way, asking great questions, answering Ms. Juliano’s questions and building a relationship with her.

Thanks to creator mamas Ami Magisos and Jennifer Stanowski, ring leaders Laura Porfirio and Mireya Escamillo who took Ambassadors from an internal training to an AALL sponsored statewide training and Kathy Budway who continued to nurture and improve the Ambassador Program…. It’s going NATIONAL.

COABE received funding from Dollar General and Aztec to fund Capitol Hill Day and to fund more adult learners and program teams getting trained on how to do their own Ambassador Programs.  A Train the Trainer session will be offered at COABE 2018 in Phoenix.

Next year, I hope to have triple the number of Ambassadors hitting the hill with their state association representatives.  At this year’s debrief, EVERY single person (50+) said that the student stories were the most powerful part of the visit.  Not just for the policy makers, but also for the staff.  Even those educators who had been in the field for decades learned something new.  Students, staff and policymakers were all transformed!

COABE’s Educate and Elevate campaign has already impacted the field.  Over 30,000+ contacts were made just prior to our Hill visits, so many staff and members already knew a little about adult education.

As I’ve said a hundred times, or so….

The best advocates are our students and successful advocacy includes three very important parts:

Data + Stories + Relationships 

We were lucky to have utilized each part successfully on our Capitol Hill Day 2017.

I have also included some of COABE’s fact sheets below:



Student Ambassadors Testify

On May 16th, 2017 two adult education ambassadors from Pima College Adult Basic Education for College and Career spoke eloquently before the Pima County Board of Supervisors thanking them for their support of adult education.

Recent GED graduate, Student Leadership Council Representative and AmeriCorps member, Alejandra de la Rosa shared her story about taking the GED exam and passing all of her tests. She also told the Pima County government representatives that her AmeriCorps service as a math tutor for other adult education students at the El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center helped her discover that she has a talent for teaching.  She is now reconsidering her career path. Alejandra will walk with hundreds of other HSE graduates on June 1st at the Tucson Convention Center at 7:00pm.

Faith Kelleher also expressed her gratitude for the County’s support. She told Supervisors that adult basic education helped her “get her life back.”  Faith’s heroic story of being abducted as a child and then escaping from a human trafficking ring in the US brought the audience to tears. After she earns her diploma, she wants to become a social worker and assist other young women and girls who have suffered in similar circumstances.  In the meantime, she enjoys the freedom to study math, reading and writing at the  29th St. Coalition Center. Faith also shares her story with other survivors about the necessity and benefits of community programs such as The Gospel Rescue Mission and Pima College Adult Basic Education.

National Volunteer Recognition Week!

Pima Community College Adult Basic Education for College and Career will recognize the amazing community members who work alongside our teachers and support staff to serve over 5,000 students every year. We could not do the work we do without the help of our dedicated volunteers. Our volunteers work as classroom aides, one-on-one tutors, English club facilitators, computer and math lab assistants, and Transition to Jobs and Citizenship teachers.

There are volunteers at all three learning centers and many of our other Pima College locations working to help students increase their math skills, learn how to write descriptive essays, practice their job interview skills, and gain fluency in English.

Currently, we have 36 tutors, classroom aides, and English Club facilitators, 15 citizenship teachers and substitutes, and 3 Transition to Jobs volunteers.

Since July of 2016 through March 2017, volunteers have logged 1,091 service hours!

Our longest serving volunteer, Pete Yonsetto, has been a citizenship teacher for 17 years, teaching US history, civics and government to students preparing to become US citizens.Pete and Students

Pete says:   I am quite humbled to witness and be in the presence of such hard working, modest immigrants. They will grace our country with pride and joy, committed to bring their rich culture to our great nation and be wonderful stewards of this country.”

What teachers and students say:

“If you teach a multilevel class as I do, your volunteers are indispensable. Besides being proficient in their subject area, they need to develop a good working relationship with the students, they need to work well independently and they need to monitor each student’s progress so that they can provide me with valuable feedback. I appreciate their efforts and I know that I could not conduct a successful class without them.”

“Susan has been wonderful in addressing Marian’s goals. She has been very consistent and flexible, and has managed to keep Marian motivated to continue and be excited about learning.”

“What Ed, Ginnie, and Caroll are doing for our students goes way beyond investing the time to prepare materials then stand in front of a classroom. Their wealth of knowledge and experience in the US workplace paired with their supportive approach is exactly what our students need to be able to make it to the next level. The Transition to Jobs class wouldn’t be as rich and engaging without their contribution.”

“The Transition to Jobs class has been a wonderful experience, has helped me to better understand the US labor culture as well as to present my skills and work experience in a more professional way.

“Do your little bit of good wherever you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  -Desmond Tutu

The work our volunteers do is transformative. On behalf of Pima Community College, our Adult Basic Education Division and all our students…. Thank you! We extend our gratitude and admiration to all of our volunteers. You represent the mission, vision and values of ABECC, and our philosophy of being student centered.

THE Grant is in!


PCC Adult Basic Education’s WIOA grant application was successfully submitted to the Arizona Department of Education at the end of February.  The grant is now going through a review process that includes screening for demonstrated effectiveness, review and feedback from the local Workforce Investment Board, and evaluation by the Arizona Department of Education – Adult Education Services Division.  Notification to successful grantees will be made in May.

As we wait to hear from the ADE, it is essential that the entire Adult Basic Education team prepare for implementation of all aspects of the grant.  The instruction and services laid out in our grant application are based on the high quality instruction and services we offer, with some additions and changes that will allow us to strengthen our collaborations and programming to continue to improve our services to students, in alignment with WIOA.

As we look at the ways in which we are “reaching for the stars” in improving programming, we must identify now what we need to do to prepare for full implementation in the new fiscal year.  It is essential that every member of the Adult Basic Education team contribute to the conversation and planning for implementation.  We would like to encourage all teachers and staff to become familiar with all parts of the grant application, above and beyond those parts they may have helped to write.

The entire grant application is below:

FY18 AZ Grant Application Package for PCC Adult Basic Education for College and Career

Below find the Request for Grant Applications:







We will be fine…

I thought I would share my message to our Adult Basic Education Division this morning…
Good morning,
I imagine that many of you and your students will have very mixed emotions about the election results.  That’s O.K and those mixed feelings and diverse opinions are what makes the United States of America great.  Listen to your colleagues and students with kindness and understanding.  In America, we honor election results and the democratic process.  We don’t tolerate sore losers or winners.  Take the opportunity, if it comes up, to teach about the process, the difference between local, state and federal elections… what each branch of government can or cannot do.  Don’t let assumptions rule your classroom, the majority of Americans are not racist or sexist or whatever the messages may be.
Here are some things to consider:
  • Teach a math lesson today
  • Embrace one another; protect your students and your center
  • Teach others how to speak up and advocate
  • Model tolerance and understanding
  • Teach others how to be responsible members of society; how to research facts; how to form valid arguments
  • Be nonpartisan
  • Advocate for your students and for education
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the results, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Comfort and protect each other… we will be fine.