Center helps adults find better jobs

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The city of Portsmouth has received an opportunity from the federal government to help adults around the area who are seeking education and career advancement.

Portsmouth Public Schools received a $1.17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in November. It was the only public school division in the state to receive such an award.

The five-year grant will give more than 1,000 adults in Portsmouth, Suffolk, Norfolk and Franklin the chance to work toward a college degree.

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“We’re really excited about this new grant,” Educational Opportunity Center director Melvin Brown said. “It’s an additional resource for the residents continuing their education.”

The EOC program offers educational support for adults re-entering high school equivalency programs, along with college admissions and career guidance counseling. The program will run through Portsmouth Public Schools’ Office of Adult and Alternative Education, which has helped adults earn secondary school diplomas and GED certificates for more than 30 years.

Brown works with three associates to aid adults across Portsmouth, Norfolk, Suffolk and Franklin. The Portsmouth office alone has connected 95 participants to tutors and mentors for the college admissions process, financial aid lessons and course selection guidance.

“We assure them that this is not just another service to get numbers,” Brown said. “We really care about them getting their education, and we don’t want them to go into debt getting their education. We match them up with the right program and the right school; we try to find the right fit.”

EOC centers also help students with disabilities and language barriers, along with displaced individuals that are homeless or leaving foster care. A prerequisite is a drive to better oneself. Participants must also meet income guidelines or be the first in their family to earn a college degree. They must also be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and be 19 or older.

“We just had someone call here that said he was tired working outside in the cold and that he wanted to make changes to his life and his work environment,” Brown said.

Brown helped that caller on his road towards a better life, and he and his associates continue to support adults with career advancement.

For more information about the program, call 393-9708.