After a five-month delay due to uncertainty about state funding, the Monroe County Learning Bank Network officially launched in November.
The collaborative of a dozen Monroe County organizations is now fully moving ahead toward its goal of expanding opportunities for county residents to achieve the basic skills needed for success in postsecondary education and training.
The Learning Bank Network partners include Monroe County Community College, Monroe Bank & Trust, Monroe Public Schools, Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA)/Michigan Works!, Monroe County Intermediate School District, Monroe County Opportunity Program, City of Hope CDC, Arthur Lesow Community Center, City of Monroe, Monroe County Library System, Bedford Schools and United Way.
Funding for the endeavor was originally awarded in January 2009 when MCCC received a $300,000 No Worker Left Behind Adult Learning Demonstration Grant.
The grant application specified that the Learning Bank Network would coordinate and integrate county services to provide adult basic education and GED preparation in the southern and central regions of the county. It also called for a central Learning Bank Network facility to be located in the Orchard East neighborhood. It was determined that facility would be housed in the former Monroe Bank & Trust branch on 1102 E. Front St.
However, in an executive order on May 5, Gov. Jennifer Granholm implemented a number of budget reductions across all departments to balance the state's budget, placing the future of the Learning Bank Network in jeopardy.
In October, the college received formal notice from the state that funding for the Learning Bank Network had been secured. The project would be supported with Workforce Investment Act, Statewide Activities American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Wagner-Peyser ARRA funding. MCCC President Dr. David E. Nixon and MBT President and CEO H. Douglas Chaffin subsequently signed an agreement that leases the former MBT branch to the college at a discounted rate.
The Learning Bank Network will serve 250 students per year with adult basic education and GED preparation. In addition, it offers a host of related services, such as group and individual tutoring, career counseling and advising; skill-building seminars in college and career success; courses in financial literacy, parenting and other life skills; and direct access to employers for internships, career exploration and possible jobs.
To facilitate individually paced, flexible progress for students, there are multiple access points through all of the partner locations, as well as year-round entry into the process.
Renovations to the former MBT bank branch have begun, and in the meantime the Learning Bank Network is temporarily operating out of the Lesow Center.
Vuncia Council, coordinator of the Learning Bank Network, sees many benefits to having a central facility, including adequate space; classroom-style instruction with computers, white boards and projection systems; and more potential adult basic education and GED graduates.
The new facility will include a reception area, two classrooms, two offices, a conference room and two restrooms, including one that is ADA-accessible. The conference room will be converted from the existing bank vault.
In addition to Council, who is employed full time through the grant, the Learning Bank Network has part time staff support from an adult basic education and GED instructor, tutor, computer trainer and intern.
Partner organizations also provide support. For example, representatives from the Monroe County Opportunity Program are on site once per week and on an as-needed basis to identify and mitigate barriers to success, and SEMCA provides case management support twice a week.
For more information, contact Learning Bank Network coordinator Vuncia Council at 734-457-0091.