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Funds: Adults with Learning Disabilities

The Pima Community College Foundation has established a fund to help adults with learning disabilities participate equitably in the High School Equivalency exam.

Several years ago, PCC Foundation board member Mark Ziska was hired to do a strategic planning project for the college’s Adult Education program, which includes preparation for the High School Equivalency (formerly known as the GED) exam.

“Working with Adult Education was a real eye-opener,” says Ziska. “There is nobody who works with adults in this way except Pima Community College. Adult education is a forgotten group.”

Ziska discovered that a number of the adult learners might need accommodations to pass the exam because of learning difficulties or disabilities, explains Jim Lipson, Advanced Program Coordinator for Volunteers and Citizenship Education.

Ziska was especially attuned to this because his youngest son has dyslexia and dysgraphia (inability to write coherently).

“Mark learned to get those accommodations, we had to process an application with the Department of Education, which requires that they have a recent diagnosis of the disability or difficulty, whether it be (the need for) a quiet room, frequent breaks, or more time to complete the work,” according to Lipson.

“The problem is that many of these people may have received the diagnosis from the public school system five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago” or may never have been diagnosed properly at all.

Each person would have to spend up to $1,500 for testing and diagnosis, an insurmountable sum for most. So Lipson found a workaround in collaboration with the University of Arizona Clinical Psychology Department to do the testing at a reduced fee.

“The UA was extremely receptive to the idea and suggested that graduate students could do the assessment testing under supervision by a faculty member” for $375 per adult.

To help pay for that assessment, Ziska established a fund in the PCC Foundation in May 2012.  To date, nine students have benefitted from the Ziska Fund, with more to come in the future.

“I would like to see the fund grow,” says Ziska.