Bridging the gap to lend a helping hand

Sugar industry recovers with sweet harvest
December 21, 2010
Tri-parish families get troops home for holidays
December 23, 2010

Be it financial, work related or personal, the place someone is and where they want to be can be as far away as the opposite shore of the Mississippi River.

Some make it across on their own; many get a helping hand n a bridge to that distant shore.

“It’s easy to become stagnated and say ok, I’m resigned to being here and I can’t do any better, when all you need is just a little help to move on. So we hope to be the little help that our students need to reach the next level and then the next level after that,” said Learning Bridge owner Gloria Williams.

While still in its infancy, The Learning Bridge Career Institute has been approved by the state and is in the process of looking for employees.

“We’re going to work with training in medical field occupations. Medical assistants, phlebotomists, physical therapy techs, computer information systems, things like that,” Williams said.

The Bastrop, La., native explained that a number of people in the community work in the medical field but aren’t certified.

“You can’t take the certification test until you’ve taken a course. We’ll offer them those courses,” Williams said.

The career institute is scheduled to open in January but the tutoring center has been open since September. Williams said the two will work toward a common goal: to help parents get the education they need.

While the parent is in class at the Institute, their child can take advantage of the tutoring center.

“The tutoring center is going to benefit the students who go to the Institute because we are going to care for their children n we’re not going to be a daycare n but we’ll care for their children while they are in class,” Williams said.

Tutoring has always been a part of the original plan, but Williams didn’t want to wait for the career institute to open its doors before getting under way.

“The career institute takes a long time to materialize because you have to go through the state. We knew we wanted to bring the tutoring center in and said why wait for the career center to be up? Let’s do it now,” Williams explained.

Before opening the tutoring center, Williams thought about charging for its services, but changed her mind.

“This had to be free because many children who need tutoring cannot afford it. If I wanted to do something to help the children of the community, charging for tutoring does not help them,” Williams said.

The center charges a $25 fee for the initial paperwork, a t-shirt, nametag and supplies.

Once enrolled, each child is assigned a tutor and begins working on areas they have problems with in school.

“We work on the same things that the children are working on in their classrooms. So if this week you’re working on multiplication, so are we. If next week you’re on division, so are we,” Williams explained.

At first, the tutoring center was supposed to house 12 children but is currently up to 18.

“I have to stop taking kids until I can find another tutor. Parents tell me ‘My child’s probably not going to be promoted to the next grade because he’s making straight F’s in math,’ so I try to figure out what we can do. It’s a process and we’re not going to stop,” Williams said.

The Learning Bridge Career Institute may become a community college one day but Williams said it will probably take several years to get there.

“You have to be a proprietary school first and meet certain requirements over the first two years before you can move into the next phase. I know that all of this is easier said than done, but if I don’t try to do what I thought was helpful to someone else, then I was here for nothing. That’s how I look at it,” Williams said.

The goals of The Learning Bridge Career Institute are to not only teach students the information in their school books, but how to become professional and dependable while at work.

“You have to learn how to make arrangements for your children in advance. That’s one of the things we want to help the students with as well as education and job placement,” Williams said.

Sometimes Williams thinks it’s a little more overwhelming than she first thought it was going to be.

“All of this has been a learning experience n that’s why it’s called The Learning Bridge. The students aren’t the only one’s learning,” she laughs.

“Last year this time if you would have asked me about any of this I would have said you have got to be out of your mind. There’s no way I’d take this on at my age. But here I am in the midst of a journey that God has placed me on. I’m just going to go forward.”

Gloria Williams opened The Learning Bridge as a way to help those in need receive tutoring without the financial burden. The Learning Bridge Career Institute is expected to open in January. JENNIE CHILDS