After 16 years of working in other people’s restaurants, Daniel Tovar wants to start his own eatery.
The 42-year-old immigrant understood he needed to know more about the business side of restaurants before he made that next step.
And before he could pursue a higher education, Tovar needed to understand English better.
With the help of Columbia Basin College’s Integrated Digital English Acceleration (I-DEA) program, he is almost ready for the next challenge.
College officials gathered Monday to publicly thank the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their $100,000 grant and Mission Support Alliance, a Hanford contractor, for a $33,000 donation.
The money allowed the Pasco-based community college to buy the laptops necessary to start the class last fall. Already, 241 students are taking the course.
The state board and the Gates Foundation collaborated for 3 1/2 years to create the program, said Jon Kerr, the director of basic education for adults at the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.
The federal standards have changed. Instead of teaching life skills, we are now charged with preparing students with college and the work place.
Michael Lee, CBC associate vice president
“In a nutshell, I-DEA provides our English language learning students with a laptop computer with 50 percent of the instruction online and 24/7 internet access to learning,” Kerr said.
He used Tovar’s efforts as an example of the program’s success. Since September, Tovar’s proficiency has increased to a college level.
Students participating in the I-DEA programs perform better than their peers in traditional English-language programs, said CBC officials.
It also allows the college to get the students ready to either pursue a career or go on to further education, said Michael Lee, the associate vice president of instruction of arts, sciences and program development.
“The federal standards have changed,” he said. “Instead of teaching life skills, we are now charged with preparing students with college and the work place.”
Now with the laptops available, they’re going to be gaining technical literacy skills,” she said. “You know how important that is going to be for them to be successful in careers that are so prevalent, especially in the Tri-Cities area.
Rebekah Woods, CBC president
This means the students need to be ready for college by the time they finish the program.
With more students able to learn English faster using the I-DEA program, more of them can get certificates and degrees, Lee said.
Along with learning English, the students are learning other skills such as financial literacy and stress management.
CBC’s new president, Rebekah Woods, said she continues to be impressed by the community’s support of the college and its students. She said without the support, CBC wouldn’t have been able to afford the computers.
“Now with the laptops available, they’re going to be gaining technical literacy skills,” she said. “You know how important that is going to be for them to be successful in careers that are so prevalent, especially in the Tri-Cities area.”