Next week, Nate Bashioum will make a long-awaited walk across a stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from Carlow University.
Bashioum dropped out of high school when he was 14, insisting he wasn't interested in school. Through his teens and early 20s, he took mostly low-paying labor positions. He said the work wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, so he enrolled in tutoring courses with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council and later a GED preparatory class. Now, he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
Thousands of people in the Pittsburgh region are in need of services similar to what Bashioum required. Literacy Pittsburgh, formerly the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, announced Wednesday that it is rebranding and expanding services in an attempt to reach more people who are struggle with literacy and looking for training that would help them find a job.
The nonprofit relies on its hired teachers and more than 650 volunteers to tutor students free of charge. That literacy tutoring often shifts to résumé building and interview skills.
Executive director Don Block said the waiting list is growing, and the group is attempting to meet demand.
“Many of the people we see, they’ve had nine or 10 years of school, but they don’t test at that level. They haven’t used those skills, and they need remedial work to get up to a high school diploma and then move on to either post-secondary education or employment,” he said. “We all benefit when they get jobs and support their families. So we can be glad they are seeking services. We just need to respond.”
Block said nearly 15 percent of all adults need literacy services including high school exam preparation, adult basic education, English as a second language and workplace literacy training. Last year, the organization served more than 4,000 people acquire reading, writing, math, English language, computer and workforce skills. Block said many students are immigrants or refugees, but he identifies other students as those who have “slipped through the cracks.”
Literacy Pittsburgh serves adults across numerous neighborhood locations, its Downtown Center and soon in Beaver County. It also opened a new office in the South Hills to serve Route 51 corridor communities and is expanding services in Hazelwood, including a partnership with Community Kitchen’s culinary training program.
Literacy Pittsburgh plans to announce more partnerships in the coming weeks that officials say will help the nonprofit serve an additional 600-700 students a year.