TMCC alumna and former instructor Melody Mehrabi (Hojatpanah) is pursuing her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Nevada, Reno. She was inspired to continue her academic and professional journey by her experience in TMCC’s Adult Basic Education Program as both a student and, later, as faculty. The year before she became an ABE student, Mehrabi immigrated to the United States from Iran, where she had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Chemistry. When she arrived in the U.S., she realized she needed to do more than improve her communication skills; she also had to learn a whole new way of life.
“When I came to the United States...I had to face problems in addition to the language barrier. I was unfamiliar with everything, with my rights, with the culture, with the people, habits...many things. I had to try my best to build a new life here,” she said.
Mehrabi heard that the ABE program would enable her to improve her communication skills. “All immigrants, when they come to a new country, need to update their skills so they can perform their profession in a way that is acceptable to the new country,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to communicate effectively with people and to build connections with others in the community,” she said.
The program did exactly that. In addition to increasing her proficiency in spoken and written English, the program helped Mehrabi to hone her teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. The support of the faculty and staff was remarkable, said Mehrabi whose native language Farsi—which bears no resemblance to English—created a considerable barrier at first.
“The faculty and staff really helped me through the program, step by step,” she said. “They showed me my rights, the resources that are available, and all the skills I needed to reach my goals. They were patient, kind and they truly want their students to succeed.”
Adult Basic Education: More than the Basics
TMCC’s award-winning Adult Basic Education program opens doors of opportunity for students by offering classes that hone language skills, occupational training, literacy skills and that offer high school equivalency. In 2018–2019 ABE students earned at least 20 industry-recognized credentials and 117.5 college credits in areas of occupational training which include HVAC, Construction, CNA, and Hospitality. Of all participants in the program during that time, 47 achieved a postsecondary credential within one year of exiting the program.
Additionally, 41% of ABE students met a Measurable Skill Gain in their English language literacy as defined by federal reporting criteria. Another 371 students achieved a secondary school credential.
With reskilling and upskilling programs in place, adult education is an economic catalyst to help adults in need of language and job-specific skill sets and their communities recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, TMCC’s ABE Program joins more than 65,000 adult educators in “Moving Ahead with Adult Ed,” a new national campaign to enroll adult learners into programs that equip them with skills that lead to high school equivalency and jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage. Millions of Americans are out of work or underemployed and need to reskill or upskill to re-enter the workforce or pursue their education. The pandemic has exacerbated the need for these kinds of services.
An international study indicated that approximately 43 million working-age Americans lack the skills needed for many of the nation’s fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs. According to the U.S. Census, there are over 22 million adults in the U.S. without a high school diploma. If you’re an adult learner, don’t think that age can keep you from achieving your professional goals: no matter the challenges or barriers to success you face, chances are the ABE program can help.
“The program helped me to get the skills I needed, which wasn’t just the language skills,” said Mehrabi. “They teach people all the skills they will need to be successful professionals. This program is high-quality... and, more importantly, it’s offered for free or at a minimal cost to all students.”
Opening Doors to Education
Through the support of the program, Mehrabi realized she wanted to become an educator, so Mehrabi reached out to Adine Stormoen, who was a coordinator for tutors on campus. “She told me I could be an effective tutor, and that she would help me through it. She also encouraged me to become a full-time instructor. With her help, I am the person I am today. And I believe she is my angel since she opened a new chapter of my life in this country.”
When she was offered the opportunity to be a teacher in the ABE program, it seemed like a dream come true. “That opened the door to me because I saw that they trusted me… after being a student and an English Language Learner, they trusted me to teach other people,” she said.
After a few months of working as a tutor, Mehrabi became a supplemental instructor for Chemistry 121 and then was hired as a part-time mathematics instructor in the High School Equivalency (HSE) program. In 2017, she decided to continue her education. Mehrabi will complete her Master’s program in 2021 and will continue to her Ph.D. in Education, which will focus on Equity and Diversity in Education and is directly inspired by her experience at TMCC.
“Pursuing this major came to my mind after I became a teacher in HSE program. Since I was working with diverse students, such as English Language Learners, and immigrant students, I wanted to be more educated to make my classroom equitable for all,” she said.
To other adult learners who face the decision to return to their education after years of building their own lives and responsibilities, which can include a job and caring for family members, Mehrabi said it’s never too late to take the first step toward the life you've always wished for.
“All students should know that it’s not important how old they are,” she said. “The important thing is to set goals. It doesn’t matter how fast you reach them. It’s just important to constantly move forward, and to never give up.”
For more information about TMCC’s Adult Basic Education offerings, contact the program at 775-829-9044.