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Sira’s Helping Hands

Mike Vail | Career and Family Pathways learners

Yesterday, September the 8th, was International Literacy Day, a day created by UNESCO 50 years ago acknowledging the critical human, economic, and civic impact of a literate workforce in the 21st Century. Here is the success story of one such learner who attended the PSU Career and Family Pathways program in Centre County.

Sira moved to the US from Gambia. She attended Bellefonte High School for two years and graduated in June, 2017. Even though she had her high-school diploma in hand, Sira was driven to continue to brush-up her language skills for the workplace. She learned about the Penn State Career Pathways program from a relative who was attending the program and who had been referred to the program by the PA CareerLink® Centre County. Sira started attending Penn State Career Pathways classes in 2017. In June of 2017, she also began working at Wegmans where she was named a Star of the Month in recognition of her outstanding customer service skills. With the assistance of the Career Pathways program, Sira decided to pursue a career in the health care field. She enrolled in and completed a six-week Certified Nurse Assistant training through Centre Crest, where, as an employee, she applied her nursing assistant skills for one year and nine months. She is now working at Foxdale Village, continuing to apply her people skills, her nursing skills, and her amazing work ethic in Centre County. She recently worked with the WATCH program and Penn State Career Pathways to complete the Certified Medical Assistant Training Program through Lock Haven University.

Sira is one of 340 learners participating in the PSU Career Pathways program; an additional 25 families participate in the Family Pathways programs where the parents focus on improving their literacy, numeracy, English language and digital skills while helping their children become better readers and learners. Like Sira, most Career and Family Pathways learners attend this program to obtain better employment by obtaining their GED and/or transitioning to post-secondary and training through contextualized classes to assist them in realizing those goals. And many, like Sira, return to serve their community in health care, childcare, or other social service capacities.

The Career and Family Pathways learners attend community-based classes in Centre, Lycoming, and Clinton counties. Services and materials are free thanks to funding from the PA and US Departments of Education. This program is overseen by the PSU College of Education’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and Goodling Family Literacy Institute. If you know of a student or family who could benefit from our services please contact Emily Wolfe ( Or if you’re interested in volunteering to assist other learners like Sira, contact Lisa McMonagle at We’re always in need of more Helping Hands!


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