New education program is a good ‘MATCH’ for adult learners

Samantha Coronell is a student in The Learning Connection's MATCH program. Photo: Zoe Grueskin/KTOO.
Samantha Coronell is a student in The Learning Connection’s MATCH program. (Photo by Zoe Grueskin/KTOO)

Samantha Coronell said she’s always had trouble paying attention in school.

The 27-year-old was born in Juneau but moved away with her family in the third grade.

“And I moved back as soon as I could, had to come home. I didn’t realize it, but I missed the mountains. All my homework had little pictures of mountains on it,” said Coronell.

Coronell did return to Juneau and graduated from Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School in 2012.

Today she works as a carpenter apprentice, using skills she picked up at a nonprofit education center in Juneau called The Learning Connection, or TLC. It’s a program of SERRC, a statewide educational resource center.

TLC offers hands-on programs to learn a trade like construction. Right now though, Coronell is enrolled in a totally different kind of class at TLC, one in a regular classroom with whiteboards and a projector.

Called the MATCH program, for “Making Academics, Training and Careers Happen,” it combines math, reading and computer skills with lessons on how to succeed in the workplace. TLC’s offerings are typically drop-in style, meaning students come when they can. But Smith said this class is more intense.

“I think what’s different about this class is that we’ve sort of set it up as a commitment,” said Jeff Smith, the regional coordinator of the adult education program at SERRC and one of the MATCH instructors.

Students in the MATCH program meet almost every weekday for more than two months.

“We know students have busy lives, and so to commit to something long-term can be really hard. But with this class we really wanted to get a committed group so we could really help them move the bar,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the model is working. He said nationwide only half of adult education students make it to 12 hours of instruction.

“And so to have a group that eight of them started, eight of them are still with us. They’re there every single day, sometimes four to seven hours a day. Just the level of effort and commitment that they’ve shown in the class has been really amazing,” Smith said.

MATCH students range in age from 17 to 60. Smith said there’s also a wide range in what the students want out of the class. A few are studying for their GED. Two students are English language learners. And Coronell is thinking about going to college. She loves science and hopes to study genetics.

When MATCH staff learned her interest, they organized a class field trip to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s laboratory.

Patte Harding is the other instructor in Coronell’s class.

“She kind of looked like a kid in a candy shop when we were over there,” said Harding. “Her eyes were, like, wide open. She was asking a lot of questions. She’s touching all the little creatures in the wet lab. So I think it really opened her eyes to a lot of the different types of science available right here in Juneau.”

Smith said that is exactly what the class is about.

“Just sort of that, ‘Oh my gosh, I could see myself here doing this job.’ That’s really what we want, to inspire the vision for their life,” Smith said.

TLC plans to offer the MATCH program in Juneau again in the spring.

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