Essential Skills for Central Oregonians

By Mark Russell Johnson April 1, 2021

Every big journey begins with a small step — it's just a matter of taking that first purposeful stride.
On learning journeys, strong foundations are essential. And for adults seeking basic skills in subjects like English and math, those early steps find strong footing through Central Oregon Community College's (COCC) Adult Basic Skills program. With convenient, valuable and affordable classes, the program helps put personal journeys in motion.

The offerings include subjects in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies and English as a second language, courses that can open doors and create opportunities. For emerging bilingual students, the Adult Basic Skills program offers support courses for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program. New to this year is a GED prep class offered in Spanish. Coming next year, COCC will be offering two new health careers-focused classes: one for English Language Learners and a more advanced class in Adult Basic Education.

Students come from diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. Some are looking to advance themselves in their workplace, to secure a better job with added responsibility and higher wages. Others left high school before finishing and are gravitating back to their education, with the goal of readying for the GED exam. From homeschooled students in need of specific studies to recent arrivals from outside the country, the Adult Basic Skills program is able to meet students at their individual ability and experience level — including those eyeing college as part of the journey.

"We offer inexpensive classes to anyone in the community interested in improving their skills to earn their GED or practice before taking the assessment test to be placed in credit classes," said instructor Stephina Brewer. "We take personal pride in bringing these educational opportunities to the community."

Classes are $30 each, with needs-based scholarships available to students. Most classes meet twice a week and are comprised of three-hour sessions. In order to enroll, students must first attend an orientation which includes information about COCC and the Adult Basic Skills program, as well as a skills assessment and registration.

Normally offered at all four of COCC's campuses — in Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond — and also in the community of Warm Springs, classes are currently being held with remote and online instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Remote learning, however, may continue in some form beyond the pandemic, as the convenience factor has proven instrumental for many students.) For now, there are computer labs open at all four campuses to serve students, with pandemic safety protocols in place.

With a collective commitment to student success, the instruction team brings a variety of teaching experience into their classrooms, including working with adult learners in the Czech Republic, Uruguay and with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

"We're here to support students every step of the way," said Amy Stinard, a program instructor who teaches English as a second language. "We connect with multicultural students at all levels of English, from beginning to advanced. By improving their speaking, comprehension, reading and writing skills," she added, "students are able to progress through all levels and further their education, career and personal goals."

And the English language classes have become increasingly multicultural, Stinard shared, with many countries represented these days. "My students speak Mandarin, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Portuguese, Ukrainian and Spanish from many Spanish-speaking countries," she said. As a built-in benefit, it creates an atmosphere of discovery beyond the subject at hand. "Students love learning about other cultures from their classmates."

Adult Basic Skills classes are held each term at COCC, including a limited schedule offered in the summer. For more information, visit or call 541-504-2950.

Bend Campus Aerial View