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Southside Literacy expands after move

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By Jesef Williams

On any given day, you’ll see a number of different activities going on at the Preston Blackmon Family Success & Career Center.

In one room, several people work on computer-based programs in preparation to earn their GED (general educational development).

In a second room, three school-age children discuss their multiplication tables, while in another area, a mother reads a bilingual children’s book with her two daughters.

Here, the name of the game is self-betterment.

The Southside Family Literacy Program, which has offered services to county residents since 2002, delivers its programs from the Preston Blackmon Family Success & Career Center, which was dedicated in May in memory of the late Preston Blackmon, a longtime Lancaster City Council member who also served as a literacy program board member.

The Preston Blackmon center is housed in a mobile home adjacent to Deliverance Word of Faith Church, where Southside Family Literacy had been headquartered since its inception.

But space for Southside Literacy program at the church was limited, said program coordinator Dr. Stella Williams, who founded the literacy program with her husband, Dr. George Williams.

Because of the move, Southside Literacy has been able to expand its programs, she said.

“It’s wonderful because we got more space here for a variety of classes,” Williams said. “At the church, it was a tighter space. We had to use the fellowship hall for classes.”

Major components of the literacy program are GED-preparation classes and parenting sessions, with many of the attendees being referred to the program by the Department of Social Services.

DSS has referred 95 parents to the literacy program since  October 2008 – the most the program has received in that time span in recent years, Williams said.

“Each year, we’ve seen an increase,” she said. “We hope they continue to come out. They need to make changes in order to be successful parents.”

Lancaster resident Mary Alexander has been a part of the literacy program for about a month now.

On Thursday, she was reading to her two daughters during what is called Parents and Children, or PAC, time.

Besides trying to strengthen the bond with her children, Alexander is learning more about the Bible and working toward her GED.

“I’m hoping to gain a lot because I’ve lost a lot,” Alexander said. “I’m getting everything out of this.”

At the other side of the center on Thursday was Robin McCain and her son, Ganson, 17. They were working on various computer programs.

McCain said her goal is to increase her familiarity with the computer in hopes of getting a job as a secretary or assistant. She sees herself working at an insurance office.

She plans to attend the literacy program as often as she can.

“I’m learning a lot and my son is improving on his reading and writing,” she said. “I will be here as long as they will allow me to come.”

The center is typically open each week Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For details about Southside Literacy programs, call 286-5442 or 285-3149.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152