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Grant

Mary Wiegand, executive director of the Platte Valley Literacy Association, poses for a photo at the organization's office space inside the Family Resource Center, 3020 18th St. The organization is receiving a $12,000 grant from First National Bank. It's the second year in a row the organization is benefiting from the bank's generosity.

The Platte Valley Literacy Association is receiving a donation from First National Bank that will go toward supporting its provided educational services.

The group received $12,000 this year from the Omaha-based financial institution. First National Bank provides these funds in order to support local organizations that provide housing support for those who need it or educational opportunities for the community.

Mary Wiegand, executive director of the literacy association, said that the group’s goal for the money is exactly the same as it was when provided $17,000 last year: to help support the organization's efforts in providing adult education services for the community. This includes the computer classes that started as a result of earlier funding. With the new dollars, the classes can continue thriving.

“At the time, there really wasn’t a need for it until I started talking to my instructors and businesses throughout the town,” Wiegand said. “Everything is moving over to be computerized. In order to get a job, you have to go online and search for jobs and apply for a job. We discovered, because they’re not going to admit this, a majority of our students didn’t have the skills needed to do this.”

Because all of the testing for the group’s classes was done online, they had to teach students the proper way to use a computer. It wasn’t easy, as many of them could barely turn the machine on, much less use it.

“We would hand them a laptop and they would look at you like, ‘What is this for?’” Wiegand said. “They don’t know what a mouse is. With these skills that they’ve learned, they’re more comfortable with a laptop and therefore, their scores are higher.”

Thanks to the new money, Wiegand will also be able to focus on her own students and provide greater one-on-one lessons, particularly in the computer courses, where a group of students will be whisked away to the computer lab in order to receive more intensive direction.

“What I may need may be different from what you may need,” Wiegand said. “By keeping the classes smaller and more personal, we’re able to help the students with what they need.”

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Bill Flint, market president for First National Bank in Columbus, said that the Platte Valley Literacy Association was worthy of receiving recognition again due to the help it provides people throughout the area with assistance in getting a GED, honing their English and opening up opportunities for self-sufficiency.

“English proficiency can be a barrier for employment for many people who desire to live and work here,” Flint said. “Over the years, we’ve given them some other money, too, to help them with educational opportunities to improve their education and literacy.”

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Having a program where money can be donated to organizations like the literacy association is a positive part for Flint's job, just in terms of providing opportunities for all willing to work hard.

“It helps adults in their community improve their education and in some cases, their literacy skills, so they can be more productive, have better lives and provide upward mobility and different job opportunities,” Flint said. “We certainly need workers. Our unemployment rate is extremely low in Columbus and our job opportunities in Columbus are extremely high.”

Wiegand is grateful that First National Bank has once again invested in the future of her organization, allowing her to provide longer classes for more in-depth learning.

“We appreciate the support that First National Bank has given us,” Wiegand said. “Last year was the first time that we received a grant from them. By them giving me a grant this year, it shows that they are in support of the work that we’re doing and that they must approve of the direction the program is going to.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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