News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners
Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director
Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul Drake, Commissioner
For Immediate Release
June 5, 2023
Contact Brad Fay at (908) 231-7628 for more information.
Somerset County Commissioners Fund English Literacy Education Programs to Bolster Workforce
$260,000 in American Rescue Plan Funding Will Help Local Employers Fill Open Jobs, while Supporting Immigrant Families
SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County Board of Commissioners is utilizing American Rescue Plan funds to significantly increase English literacy education and expand workforce readiness in the county. At a recent meeting, the Board approved a grant of $260,000 requested by the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board (GRWDB), which serves Somerset and Hunterdon Counties.
“Adult literacy can change everything—poverty, health, equality, and equity,” said Somerset County Deputy Director Doug Singleterry, who is the Somerset County Commissioner liaison to the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board. “English literacy is essential to helping vulnerable families rebuild and recover from the extended pandemic as well as Hurricane Ida in 2021. It is also important for supporting the hiring needs of local employers.”
According to GRWDB Director Paul Grzella, funding constraints have led to a waiting list for free, accessible beginner-level English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for the most vulnerable in the community. The new funding will increase the capacity for literacy education by 140, or 30%. over the coming two years.
The Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County (LVSC) will be the lead agency managing the grant and employing a new county Literacy Navigator, who will be responsible for connecting adults in immigrant communities with English instruction, job skills and placement services, and other supportive community resources. Partners see this position as integral to the initiative’s success.
The program also includes funding for targeted ESL programs provided by the Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission (HCESC) and Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC). These new classes are slated to begin in September and will be in addition to the existing ESL literacy classes led by the two organizations. As they progress, participants in the new initiative can be connected to these more advanced classes and other services.
“We are going to be reaching immigrants who are struggling to read, write, and communicate in English,” said Aimee Lam, Executive Director of LVSC, in thanking the Somerset County Commissioners for the grant. “We are going to be providing additional instruction to people who really speak no English and helping them to learn everyday English skills that will help them get better jobs, help their children succeed at school, and help them in communicating with police officers, doctors, and pharmacists.”
As part of the initiative, LVSC will expand its bank of volunteer tutors, with the aim of adding conversation groups and one-on-one tutoring sessions at libraries around Somerset County.
The 18-month pilot project will be accomplished in partnership with the Somerset County Library System, the Raritan Public Library, the Bernardsville Public Library, the Bernards Township Library, the Franklin Township Public Library, and the Clarence Dillon Public Library. Additional partners are being sought. Funding goes through December 2024.
Individuals interested in the program for themselves or for a family member or friend may find additional information on the GRWDB website, where a program information page with a registration form will be available by July.
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