Pictured here is Dani Ducross, executive director of the County of Lacombe Lifelong Learning Association. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

Pictured here is Dani Ducross, executive director of the County of Lacombe Lifelong Learning Association. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

Lifelong Learning Association continues to expand its reach

All kinds of learning opportunities await the community via the Lacombe Lifelong Learning Association.

The Association, which is located in the Lacombe Centre Mall, is a non-profit society that is also one of more than 80 Adult Literacy Programs across the province, said Executive Director Dani Ducross.

“We have something for everyone,” she said. “We are a really safe, easy, and accessible way to help you start to make your way to improving your confidence. But we aren’t for just a specific demographic, and that’s what I think a lot of people don’t know.”

Overall, the mandate is to provide opportunities in literacy and foundational skills, English language learning, employment enhancement, and community capacity enhancement.

Specifically, topics run the gamut from literacy/numeracy improvement, basic bookkeeping, and basic office skills programs to classes on relationship communication, home buying, end-of-life planning, writing for fun, cooking, and even courses in Spanish and French.

Computer and technology training is available as well.

Funding is provided by the provincial government, and to supplement that, the organization publishes the Don’t Hibernate brochure for the community. It’s a handy guide that outlines courses and activities are that available through the Association.

Meanwhile, more folks are signing up and expanding their horizons.

“Our English as a Second Language program is on fire – we went from having one, two-hour class twice a week to having four running now,” she said.

That increase in demand is due partly to the recent settling of several Ukrainian families in the community plus just a greater awareness of the programs in general over the past few years, she said. “It’s really exciting to see that (particular) program expanding the way it has been.”

Other opportunities include a focus on bolstering literacy skills in general – verbal, reading, and writing skills plus digital literacy as well.

Folks can also hone their basic computer skills – something many local seniors take advantage of, she explained. Called ‘Coffee and Computers’, it’s run on a drop-in basis, rather than as a more formal, structured program.

“It’s been great – we also take that out to the other communities – Eckville and Alix, for example.”

Ducross also pointed out how solid her team of volunteer tutors is.

“We have a lovely tutor base – up to about 20 tutors that are working with us right now,” she said, adding that it’s a real joy to see tutors and students connecting.

“It’s so cool to see those relationships develop. It can be a real life-line. You have somebody who has, for example, come from a war-torn country and is struggling day to day. They then have someone who takes the time to help them learn to express themselves. It’s amazing to see the relationship that develops.”

Ducross said there are bursaries available, and the Association has a superb partnership with the neighbouring Employment Centre.

“We do employment workshops which help to build people up to the point where they will want to access the Centre’s services.”

For Ducross, each day at the Association brings a renewed sense of inspiration.

“I think one of the things that keeps me motivated in this job is knowing the difference that we can make,” she said. “It’s not just what we offer, it’s how we offer it. It’s also about coming somewhere where people will listen to you and take the time to help you make sure you are making the right (educational) decisions,” she said.

“We’ve had people come through our bookkeeping program for example, then go through the Sage Accounting program and then they come back six months later and tell us they are doing bookkeeping for an organization,” she said.

”Their whole life has opened up! They are getting great salaries, they are confident and independent. It’s amazing to see that happen so many times!”

Looking ahead, plans are taking shape for the Lacombe Employment Expo on Jan. 16 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the LMC.

Beyond that, an Active Living Fair is also slated to run March 7.

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