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Lakes Learning offers many services

Jose Mazquiz is one of many success stories to roll out of Lakes Learning Center.

Not only did he take English classes, earn his citizenship and continues to take other classes to better his education, Mazquiz volunteers with the program to teach others English.

"I'm returning the favor. They help me, I help them," he said as his reason for tutoring.

Mazquiz is in the process of writing a book and is taking some grammar classes at the Lincoln Education Center, where Lakes Learning is housed.

"We're proud of Jose," Instructor Elaine Graf said.

"He's a good success story," Instructor Kathy Simison agreed. "He's a very good example."

Lakes Learning isn't just for people needing to perfect their English. The program actually offers many different classes, the most popular being people receiving their GED.

"There are many reasons why people come," Simison said.

"I have my courses done and got my GED, and I still come back with questions," Dan Tyge said.

Each year, Lakes Learning holds a graduation ceremony for some 50 clients, one of which will be Tyge on April 25. With headquarters in Detroit Lakes, Lakes Learning also serves people through offices in Ulen-Hitterdal, Ada-Borup, Norman County East and Lake Park-Audubon.

After several years of being out of high school, Tyge decided to get his GED. He needed it to enroll at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes. He begins this fall in the computer technology support specialist program.

"In a few months, everyone here helped bring that back to me," he said of everything he had forgotten between high school and the GED test.

He said Lakes Learning did a great job helping him look over every subject and prepare for the test.

Lakes Learning is a part of the Detroit Lakes School District. The funds for the program are filtered through the school district but are separate. When budget cuts hit the school, they don't necessarily hurt Lakes Learning. The program is funded depending on the amount of people the group serves.

"We're multi-faceted. We provide many things for the community," Simison said.

That said, Lakes Learning is also looking for donations and volunteers. Just because someone doesn't have a teaching degree doesn't mean they can't help.

Graf and Simison said they match volunteers and their strengths to the people in need of their specialty.

The learning services Lakes Learning provide are free. They also provide day care and transportation help.

"We can work out issues of why they're not coming," Simison said.

The program assists anyone over age 16, and no one is turned away. Simison said they will find someone to take care of whatever need there is. And it's a spectrum of needs and services.

Graf said Lakes Learning does a lot of teaching of and with computers, takes referrals from the Workforce Center and Human Services and works with individual companies on specific skills.

There is the jail program, teaching the inmates. Also, tutoring the public to work on resumes, computers, grammar, math, anything.

And new this year, a pre-certified nursing assistant course.

The program teaches students who want to take the CNA course some vocabulary terms and other info, preparing them for the course.

People with an education who may need to bush up on basic skills can come for assistance as well.

"Parents can come to upgrade their skills to work with their own children (on homework)," Graf said.

The English as a Second Language program, which is now known are ELL (English Language Learner) because so many people who come to learn English already know multiple languages, is also popular in the area.

The ELL program is serving people from 10 countries right now.

"Adult Basic Education, we're here to make a difference in the community," Graf said.

"There are many things going on all the time," Simison added.

Everything at Lakes Learning is done one-on-one or in small groups of two to three. It is also completely confidential.

"It goes back to Las Vegas," Graf said. "What happens at Lincoln (Education Center), stays at Lincoln."

Lake Learning is open later on Tuesdays and will schedule Saturdays or other nights during the week if it helps the clients.

"We're flexible in that way," Simison said. "We develop the program needs for the client. We will work through any issue they have."

Lakes Learning serves 400 students or clients throughout the year. It has been in Detroit Lakes for 23 years.