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Workforce developing at Reserve OaksLEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 26, 1998RESERVE – A workforce development program is making progress, even at Reserve Oaks housing development.

In a small classroom at the Reserve Oaks Community Center on East 13th Street, a group of adults are improving their reading, writing and mathematics skills and also learning about how to enter the workforce and stay there, helping to break the chain of poverty spawned through a lack of education.

Instructor Gwen Hall brings her years of teaching experience, including 10 years with the Job Training Partnership Act, to not only teach those deemed unteachable but also to inspire.

The program started in July 1997, and classes are held Mondays through Thursdays, with Fridays devoted to orientation and evaluation of new students.

Many alumni of the program have gone on to earn their GEDs, entered vocational training and gone to work.

“We teach employability skills, like how to dress, how to interview, how to write a resume and acceptable behavior at work,” Hall said.

Job placement is also part of the program, where prospective employers are encouraged with a tax break to hire a worker on a volunteer basis to see how they work out, then possibly hire them for pay.

One time, a woman in her mid-30s came into the center, Hall related. Thewoman had a high school diploma but was functioning on second-grade reading and math skills.

By the time they were through, the woman moved on to Louisiana Technical College, River Parishes Campus, earned an associate degree and is now working.

A young man came in and declared he had been in special education programs for years, all to no positive effect.

“Can you talk?” Hall told him. “Can you walk? Then you can learn.”She remembered, “Once I got it into his head, he could!” The program is coordinated through JTPA and its director, Gus Madere, the Office of Family Services, and Patrena Ester, executive director for St. John Parish Housing.

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