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Lifelong Learning fills the gaps

Lifelong Learning fills the gaps
Lifelong Learning fills the gaps
Tom Powers, executive director of Harrison County Lifelong Learning Inc., assists Rita Yahraus of Elizabeth in the computer lab. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

Several adults were making use of the Harrison County Lifelong Learning Center’s computer lab Monday afternoon. They weren’t playing games or looking up information on the Internet. Rather they were using self-paced tutorials to learn more about computers.
The 12-station computer lab is located in the Work One Express Building on Quarry Road near the industrial park owned by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County. The lab is just one facet HCLL provides to county residents since the center opened about two years ago.
Elected county officials and members of the Harrison County Community Foundation board of directors were invited to an open house at the center the night of Jan. 23. They braved frigid weather to see what the center had to offer and share a meal prepared by Carrie’s Catering.
Gary Geswein, president of the five-member HCLL advisory board, said the groundwork for the program began about five years ago. Tom Powers of Lanesville, an early retiree from the Veterans Administration in Louisville, was hired at its executive director two years ago, and Christina Gettelfinger joined the staff in April 2001 as an officer manager/program coordinator.
HCLL started in 2001 with an annual budget of $109,000, which came from riverboat funds set aside for adult education. This year it has an operating budget of $117,768.
“We have set … one, three, and five-year goals,” Geswein said. “We have discussed longer-term ones but haven’t put them in writing.”
Since the center opened it has offered many classes, including welding, beginning computer, Computer II, landscape and gardening, A+ Certification Group, ArcView GIS (Geographic Information System), and Spanish for law enforcement officers.
Gettelfinger said other language classes have included Beginning Spanish, Spanish Part II, and a Spanish course was held for members of Trinity Assembly of God Church, who operate Our Father Provides, a food pantry/clothes closet in Corydon that is frequented by Hispanics.
“We also offer individual tutoring,” which totaled about 80 hours last year, she said.
HCLL sponsored the first “Read to Lead” event for Harrison County, and helped adults obtain their GED.
Lifelong Learning has also worked with Corydon, Lanesville and North Harrison schools, plus the county extension office.
Awningtec USA Inc., Keller Manufacturing Co. Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. have used services offered by the center.
“We’ve started a lot of things here,” Geswein said.
He said that he had heard some new ideas suggested during the open house, too.
“Let us know some of the direction you’d like to see us take,” Geswein told the guests. He later said that the center’s advisory board needs “to be a little more lofty with our goals.”
When Powers was named executive director, he and the advisory board visited similar centers to see what they were doing.
Powers encouraged the guests at the open house to read the HCLL mission statement, which states: “The mission of the Harrison County Lifelong Learning Inc. is to help provide access to a wide range of education and training opportunities for the adult residents of the Harrison County area. These opportunities will be primarily (though not exclusively) directed at improving the quality of the workforce. The connection of a particular program to workforce improvement need not always be direct and obvious.”
HCLL offers a three-pronged approach to serving: counseling/guidance, training and contacts.
“The training is provided when it’s not being offered elsewhere,” Powers said.
More tutorial CDs are being added to the computer lab, which is open for public use from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Computer programs includes various levels of Windows, Excel 2000, Word 2000, PowerPoint 2000, Access 2000, and Outlook 2000. There is a five-disk set for A+ Certification.
Some online courses, such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel, are also available, although Powers said the center may have to charge a nominal fee for those programs.
“These are there for the community,” Powers said.
Last year, HCLL started Tier 2, for people who want to enter the work force. The Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County funded the pilot program. Harrison County is only the second county in the state to offer Tier 2. Participants earn Certificates of Technical Achievement (CTA) from the program.
“The state of Indiana is really big with CTAs,” Powers said.
New for 2003 is a CNA (certified nurse assistant), which Powers called a “win-win situation.”
The program will probably be offered quarterly, with a maximum of 10 students per session, he said.
“Harrison is one of three counties in the state doing this,” he said. “It should help take a burden off nursing homes,” which are having a tough time staffing CNA positions.
In the works are classes in upholstery, computer-assisted design, and advanced computer study.
“We have more gaps to fill,” Geswein said in closing. “We want input from you.”
Other Lifelong Learning board members are Earlene Haesley, Marvin Kersey, William Nichols and Ralph Sherman.
For more information about the Harrison County Lifelong Learning, call 738-7736 or visit its Web site at