Students in Aspire program ‘learn more to earn more’

Students attend an ESOL class through the MVCTC Aspire program. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Students attend an ESOL class through the MVCTC Aspire program. CONTRIBUTED

Classes build ‘community, friendship and families.’

Education is a lifelong journey, and the Aspire program at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center understands that the journey is not the same for everyone.

The Aspire program is a state-funded program that offers free workplace education and adult readiness classes at different locations around Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties to individuals with or without a high school diploma.

ExploreFirst-ever Mac and Cheese Fest coming to Dayton in September

There is a wide range of services that includes preparation for the GED/HiSET or high school equivalency; foundational math, reading and writing skills; construction craft fundamentals; culinary operations, forklift and core construction foundations; hospitality and tourism management; and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses.

Every fiscal year, around 2,000 students make their way through the Aspire program. Laurie Duren, assistant coordinator for MVCTC Aspire program, said it’s important to meet the students where they are at in life.

“We’ve had students from ages 16 to 84. Sometimes they are transitioning to another job. Some want to show their family what they can do and some want to turn their life around,” she said.

The Aspire program has had a couple of different iterations since it began back in 1966. Today the program has 52 part-time staff members consisting of teachers and career coaches, and three full-time staff members. There are also many volunteers. Duren said the group is very close-knit.

“The program builds community, friendship and families. We do carry-ins and share food that brings people together. We also have wonderful community partners. There’s a lot of collaboration. It takes a team,” she said.

Combined ShapeCaption
Students in the MVCTC Aspire program take part in culinary operations classes. CONTRIBUTED

Students in the MVCTC Aspire program take part in culinary operations classes. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Students in the MVCTC Aspire program take part in culinary operations classes. CONTRIBUTED

Some of the partners include the Life Enrichment Center, Montgomery County Job and Family Services, Wayne High School, Yes for Youth, and Sinclair Community College. The program is always looking for new partners, and Duren said that they will go wherever there is a need.

“We’ll go to different agencies, libraries or churches. It’s an awesome program for all. I enjoy telling people and spreading the word,” she said.

Academics isn’t the only focus of the program. Duren said that once students finish the program, they can still come back for other needs including counseling services, resume and interviewing help, and also finding clothes for students if needed for an interview.

“We are still here for them afterward. We want to gear them for success for after they use our services. There are people who come back and thank us. It’s so cool when they come back and show us their success. We empower them and then they empower others,” she said.

ExploreNew gallery in Bellbrook showcases photography

Many things are in the works for the future of the program. Duren said they are constantly looking at adding new programs and improving existing ones. Aspire is partnering with the Emerge Recovery and Trade Initiative in Xenia in the fall. Emerge offers workforce classes, transformational housing and addiction recovery. Duren said that the partners and program work incredibly well together.

“We are a big melting pot of staff, students and community partners. It’s just awesome,” she said.

Duren said the recent graduation was held in person as it hasn’t been in person the last two years. Staff members and previous students attended and many shared their stories. Many of the graduates are also offered adult education scholarships to continue their learning journey.

Anyone who wants to sign up for Aspire classes can apply on the website at mvctc.com/ae/programs/aspire. Students will go through an assessment to see what courses would be the most beneficial for them. Students must be at least 16 years old and not in high school or attending a publicly funded school.

The program is also looking for volunteers and new employees for the fall. Open positions are listed on their website and volunteers can call 937-223-5626 for more information.

About the Author