Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) awarded Innovation Grant from the National Literacy Directory

Nashville International Center for Empowerment was recently selected to receive a National Literacy Directory Innovation Grant Award for its successful and innovative approach to supporting its students’ learning needs. To find out more about the Directory’s bi-monthly grant opportunities, subscribe to NCFL’s monthly e-newsletter. Literacy and education programs listed in the Directory are eligible. To join the Directory, start by creating your account here.

After receiving a string of requests English language learners (ELL) for classes that would prepare them to obtain a high school diploma, the Nashville International Center for Empowerment Adult Education Program created free pre-high school equivalency math and social study courses for English language learning students.

NICE has always provided ESL classes that utilize a curriculum based on workforce and life-skills English classes, but realized many of their students were unfamiliar with the test-taking language, skills, and strategies needed to pass the GED and HiSet. Recognizing the distinct needs of ELL students, the math courses focused on the academic English needed to understand mathematical concepts and procedures. The social studies course addresses not only the academic language needed to pass the exam, but also how the specific content from anthropology to economics connects to students’ personal and public spheres of community.

“The Nashville International Center for Empowerment is taking preparation courses for high school equivalency tests to another level, meeting the distinct needs of their students in real world contexts. The National Literacy Directory is proud to recognize this organization’s innovative spirit and implementation,” said Lisa Avetisian, director of the National Literacy Directory.

NICE purchased iPads and integrated technology and task-based collaborative activities that allowed students to become comfortable with drawing and analyzing information from maps, charts, and other sources of visual information typically found on exams. NICE’s students were not only able to master the new concepts, but strengthened their digital literacy skills and formed connections with their classmates.

Further, these courses were strategically designed to further learning objectives by connecting course content and students to the larger community.

For example, a unit on “classical civilizations” with a focus on libraries and learning included a visit from the Nashville Public Library where students learned about library services and received library cards. Additionally, a unit on environment and sustainability created a partnership with Nashville’s Urban Green Lab.

The new courses launched in January 2016. Sixteen students are already benefitting from the creation of these courses and the newly incorporated technology and civics-based focus, and there’s now a waiting list to enroll in these classes.

“This class is very cool, you know? Maybe I will never go to Washington, D.C., but I know Smithsonian museum from my class in Nashville,” said Saad, an Iraqi student. “It helps to see things like the hominids in real life.”