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updated: 6/23/2014 9:18 AM

People's Resource Center reaches out to suburban poor with 30 neighborhood classrooms

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By Susan Manning
Wheaton Park District

People's Resource Center and its 30 neighborhood classrooms throughout DuPage County are responding to increased demands for social services.

According to the Brookings Institution, suburban poverty grew 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, which is more than twice the rate of urban poverty.

"Poverty in DuPage County is the new normal," said Elizabeth Higgins, senior director of empowerment programs at PRC. "Through PRC, clients are finding jobs, getting their GED, improving their English and learning computer skills. We are able to manage the demands of additional clients by utilizing our neighborhood classrooms, located in churches, nonprofits and schools across the county."

St. Isidore Catholic Church in Bloomingdale is one of PRC's largest classrooms. Adult students learn English and prepare for GED and citizenship tests with one-on-one tutoring every week. Clients from Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream and Hanover Park travel to St. Isidore to attend classes.

On Wednesday nights, the resource center at First Church of Lombard is busy. Here, PRC offers a weekly computer class and students have covered topics such as Introduction to Computers, Word and Excel.

In Westmont, PRC volunteers bring art class, conversational English tutoring, and citizenship preparation to older adults living at the Illinois Chinese American Residence for the Elderly. ICARE art students entered a competition at the 2013 DuPage County Fair and received awards for their creative work, and one student passed her citizenship test last year.

During 2014, PRC's Adult Learning and Literacy program will introduce new offerings at these community-based classrooms. Topics such as conducting a job search for nonnative English speaking clients, computer basics for those taking an online GED test, and applying for a job will be taught to adult learners.

For information on People's Resource Center, call (630) 384-1335.