Covenant - Education
Instructor Carrol Ann Coleman helps a Soldier by answering his question on a math problem. Functional Academic Skills Training - FAST - classes are offered at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith Education Center to help Soldiers improve their verbal and math skills, so they can improve their General Technical score. GT scores of 110 or higher are required to qualify Soldiers for specials schools and some military occupational specialties. (United States Army Photo by Randy Murray)

<b> Fort Stewart, GA </b> -- Reading, writing and mathematical skills are the basic building blocks for learning more, in-depth knowledge.

Because some Soldiers and Family members have academic weaknesses in these basic skills, Fort Stewart's Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith Education Center offers several programs to help, including Functional Academic Skills Training (Soldiers only), General Education Development diploma classes and English as a Second Language classes.

Although the Army Family Covenant has not generated additional funds for the Education Center, Education Officer Pam King said the Covenant has allowed them to emphasize basic skills and expand access to adult education programs.

She described FAST, GED and ESL as "stepping stones to higher learning," which she hopes would encourage an "interest in life-long learning." She added that these programs are primarily for Soldiers and their Families, but most classes at the Ed Center are open to the community, particularly since GED and ESL classes are taught by Savannah Technical College instructors.

"We provide the classroom space, and they provide the instructors," King explained. "GED and ESL classes are free though there is a $35 registration fee, which is waived for spouses of deployed Soldiers."

Because no extra funds come to the Ed Center from the Covenant, King said her office tries to leverage as much as possible from participating colleges, state and federal programs. One program called HOPE is funded through the state of Georgia. Soldiers and their spouses qualifying for this program can take GED, ESL and college classes free, books included.

She said most ESL students tend to be foreign born spouses, and that their number has increased with the longer deployments. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, when Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Soldiers deployed for training exercises, their foreign born spouses would just stay home rather than attempt to cross the language barrier to re-new a post registration for the Family car or enroll their children in day care programs. The longer deployments made it necessary for them to improve their understanding of English, which, she added, is a good thing for the spouse and the community.

Instructor Faith Pitts said her intermediate ESL students came from numerous cultures - Dominican Republic, Colombia, Korea and even Russia. Despite their diversity, they responded to Pitts' instruction with appropriate questions. English, after all, is not an easy language to learn, not only for its extensive vocabulary but also for because our words often have multiple meanings.
Pitts said the next registration for Beginner and Intermediate ESL classes will take place August 4-7 from 9 a.m. to noon. Registration takes about an hour, she said because students are tested to determine class placement. Beginner classes will be held at the Ed Center, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, while Intermediate classes will be Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon.

FAST classes help Soldiers improve the same basic skills as the GED, only the goal is not a high school equivalency diploma but to improve their General Technical score. To qualify for certain schools or Military Occupational Specialty, Soldiers must have a GT score of 110 or higher. Soldiers wanting to improve their math and verbal skills and thereby raise their GT score should contact their unit education officer or come by the Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith Education Center.

For more information, call (912) 767-2866.

Page last updated Thu July 3rd, 2008 at 17:00