In the halls of the Cesar Chavez Adult Education Center in downtown Fresno Monday, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin pulled the wraps off of a bold new plan.
It's called the "Learn-2-Earn Initiative" and its goal is to help adults who want to, go back to school, finish that high school or college degree and make their dreams for a better future, come true.
"Today we are going to fill the airwaves of Fresno and over the next 6 months we're filling the airwaves with a message of hope," announced Swearengin.
And the substance of that message?
"That if you ever dropped out of school," Swearengin continued, "if you never finished high school, if you never finished college and you want to get back to school it's a lot easier than you think. It is possible. There are people who are available to help you get back to school, and that's what Learn-2-Earn is all about."
The need for that support in the Valley is great, says Swearengin.
According to one survey more than 68,000 people in Fresno do not have a high school diploma, and that's costing them jobs.
"There are thousands of jobs going unfilled in Fresno, " confirmed Swearengin, "because in so many cases the people who are looking for work lack the skills that are required to gain the job."
But, it doesn't have to be that way says the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education's, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Brenda Dann-Messier.
"I know it's not always easy, but keep on going. I know you want to be goal models for your children. I know you have goals and hopes and dreams and because you're here, you'll realize them."
The key to realizing them, says Swearengin, is a phone number.
"By calling 2-1-1 can find out about all the educational resources available in tour community."
That call, Swearengin says, will connect you with an educational advisor who'll steer you to the right school and support programs to help you reach your educational goals.
It's a path Pha Moavangsou, a high school dropout, has already taken.
Moavangsou is now an educational adviser to the Learn2Earn program and he says he has his son to thank for that.
"My son did this exercise that said who is your hero? And he said I was his hero and I thought about it and he said when he grew up he wanted to be just like me. So, that was a reality check."
Now the proud holder of a Master's degree, Moavangsou has his own message for everyone else.
"I was very fortunate that I decided to go back to school because I changed my life. I've impacted my children's, children's, children's, destiny by going to school."
And, Moavangsou says, you can too
Learn2Earn will hold it's next education and training fair next week.
It will take place Thursday, April 26th at Lowell Elementary School from 4:00- 7:00 p.m.
More than 20 local colleges, schools and universities will be there with information on available programs and career exploration workshops.
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