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Woman changes direction in life with help from The Learning Center

Learning Center Face Story (800x533)


It was just not the year for Desiree 10 years ago. She describes herself as being a “troubled teen” the year her mother fell ill. She missed three months of school due to the cancer diagnosis and struggled getting back into her classes upon her return. A math teacher’s comment, she said, was the last straw.

“It was already something I was worried about. I never did good in math,” Desiree said. “He said to me, ‘Why even come back? You’re not going to catch up. You’re not going to pass.’”

Although her mother was reluctant, she signed the papers for Desiree to withdraw from school.

“When she dropped me off that day, she said she understood, but that if I chose to do it, I had to walk home from school that day,” she said. “So I walked home from school that day.”

Desiree attended night classes for a time before starting at CareerLink to pursue her GED. But she said she just wasn’t getting what she needed there.

“I was basically just studying the book on my own through reading it every night,” she said. “I wasn’t getting the help I needed to pass the one test that was left, language arts.”

That’s when she discovered The Learning Center. She began attending in October 2014, with a goal to pass the final portion of her GED testing.

“What I have experienced here as opposed to the other places I’ve tried … it’s been nothing but encouragement,” Desiree said. “That’s why I’m still here. I felt that I needed the right place and the right people.”

The Learning Center, a program of the Lycoming County Library System, is a Lycoming County United Way Program Partner, receiving funding each year to support its services. The adult literacy and basic education program provides one-on-one tutoring services in reading, writing and math skills. Tutoring is provided by trained volunteers and staff members of the Literacy Project.

”The purpose of The Learning Center is to provide services to adults in order for them to acquire skills to be effective in their roles as members of their families, communities and workplaces,” said Linda Herr, director of the program. “United Way is our primary source of support. Without the LCUW, resources are so limited that The Learning Center services to those adults who need educational skills for employment, to get a GED, or to enter post-secondary education and training would be severely diminished or vanish altogether.”

Desiree attends classes offered through The Learning Center periodically, but does most of her work with tutor, Mary Sieminski.

“Desiree and I meet once a week at the library to help her prepare for the Language Arts section of the GRE exam,” Mary said. “We use a series of workbooks provided by the literacy center and I also give her ‘homework’ to prepare for our next session. The one-on-one tutoring is working very well.”

Desiree, she added, is very determined to get her GED completed and move on to college.

“She has already made inquiries to at least two colleges,” Mary said. “She is committed to this goal, despite the obstacles she faces in caring for her two children and her mother, who is seriously ill.”

Desiree, now 27, plans to take her last test in September. Her goal, she said, is to pursue a college degree in human services.

“I have always just really wanted to help people,” she said.

Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director, said he was stunned when he learned that 15% of the adults in Lycoming County could not read at the third-grade level.

“To me, that was a staggering statistic that has spill-over effects on so many aspects of an individual’s life,” he said. “The Learning Center, via one-on-one tutoring, is helping adults achieve reading skills and further their education to help them better their lives and their self-worth.”

Lycoming County United Way is proud to provide $75,000 to The Learning Center, a program of the Lycoming County Library System. But we cannot do it without you. Help us continue support by making a contribution today. Call Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or visit


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