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CFCC essentials student gains independence while learning basic skills

Tony Karras
While researching available adult education programs in the Wilmington area, Tony Karras’s mother discovered the Essentials Program at Cape Fear Community College. Tony was no longer attending public high school, but he still needed to learn basic skills. And CFCC’s Essentials Program offered flexible, self-paced coursework that was the perfect fit for Tony.

CFCC’s Essentials Program is a free program that offers academic and career training to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The students must desire to improve their reading, writing, math, and computer literacy skills and have a willingness to work. Tony was ready to begin his journey towards a career and independence.

Upward Momentum

Each student in the Essentials Program is initially tested in reading and math. Students test again every 100-150 hours of instruction to measure their progress. When Tony started the program in 2019, he tested at a National Reporting System (NRS) level two. Now, a level three in both subjects, Tony’s instructors could not be more proud.

“I have always had confidence in the potential of our students to succeed in a career path and become more independent,” said Adult Basic Education Instructor Mary Wofford. “Tony has accomplished both at an incredible speed!”

During his two years in the program, Tony improved his reading and comprehension skills along with his math skills. He also learned how to budget his finances. These essential skills improve Tony’s ability to work and live on his own.

“This program has helped me reach some of my goals,” Tony said. “I am a lot better with money, and when I read a book, I’m actually able to understand what the words mean.”

But, he is not finished with his learning journey. Tony’s next step in the program is to prepare for career pathway classes.

Toward the Dream Career Pathway

Tony currently works in the laundry department at Autumn Care, a senior living facility. “Some people don’t think laundry is fun, but in a certain way, I do,” shared Tony. “But, I’ve told people this is not a long-term job. I would like to work in a phone or computer store. Apparently, I’m very good at fixing things.”

His instructors agree that he is a mastermind when it comes to phone technology. “Tony has taught me some things that I didn’t know my phone could do,” Wofford explained. “And he’s very patient when explaining things. He never gets frustrated.”

Tony’s dream job, however, is to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He is working hard to further improve his reading and math skills to enroll in the telecommunicator course, which is offered through the Academic and Career Readiness department.

“I love having Tony in our Essentials program. He is committed to attending and focused on improving his academic skills,” said Essentials and High School Equivalency Coordinator Kathy Martinez. “Being a part of his journey and seeing his accomplishments is a wonderful thing!”

Interested in learning more about the Essentials Program at CFCC? Take the next step today.

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