Nova Scotia Adult Learner Says VCLA’s Education and Employment Efforts Are Worth Supporting

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KENTVILLE, NS — An adult learner from Kentville says it’s “absolutely essential” that people continue to support the Valley Community Learning Association (VCLA).

The non-profit organization provides services to adults who need help improving their literacy skills, preparing for the GED, learning English and developing employability skills.

Glenda Longley is currently working on her GED and is very excited to complete it. She said her experience with VCLA has been “incredible.” Longley enjoys the encouragement she receives, as this support helps build her confidence.

Being part of the VCLA brought her back to society after nearly two years of pandemic isolation. Longley recalls not being able to believe what she was seeing when she was first introduced to VCLA.

“I was just like, ‘This is amazing. How the hell did they do all this?’” she said.

The association held its Literacy Mile fundraiser on June 11. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time since 2019 that she could host the event. Participants walked from downtown Kentville to the property of the VCLA Community Hub, the former Reformed Christian Church at 118 Oakdene Ave.

Longley said she felt she had benefited from all the good things that come from the Literacy Mile. Longley especially enjoys working in VCLA’s commercial kitchen and community gardens, which the fundraiser helps support. Longley previously worked as a chef and recognizes that food safety is a major issue for many people.

She said people learn in different ways, and it’s important for teachers to understand that. Longley said she learns visually and once she’s been shown something, she’ll “never forget how to do it.”

Longley said she never thought of herself as a mentor, but recently had the opportunity to speak with students at the Northeast Kings Education Center in Canning as part of the Mentoring Plus program. She said there were a lot of questions asked and a lot of advice given.

“Some things aren’t always going to work out the way you want them to,” Longley said. “Things get in our way, but we have to learn to work with the things that get in the way.”

She has found that life experience definitely matters when it comes to peer mentoring. The students were very responsive, and she found it “quite informative”. Longley said she would love the opportunity to do it again.

Longley acknowledges that not everyone who could benefit from the programming, like VCLA offers, is able to access it. She would like to see more done to support literacy programs in small remote communities.


Glenda Longley, adult learner, Peter Gillis, executive director of the Valley Community Learning Association (VCLA), and Kathleen Novelia, YMCA employment and education manager, in one of the community gardens at the VCLA Community Hub in Kentville.  KIRK STARRATT
Glenda Longley, adult learner, Peter Gillis, executive director of the Valley Community Learning Association (VCLA), and Kathleen Novelia, YMCA employment and education manager, in one of the community gardens at the VCLA Community Hub in Kentville. KIRK STARRATT

Learning support

For the Literacy Mile, VCLA solicited donations from businesses and service clubs through a letter-writing campaign prior to the event. Some participants collected pledges and there was an online auction supported by the local business community.

VCLA executive director Peter Gillis said it’s been a great year for the Literacy Mile, bringing in about $25,000, more than previous years. Given the success of the online auction, it will likely do so again in the future.

He said there seemed to be an increased awareness of the need to help throughout the pandemic. The community has been very responsive to the organization’s needs and has continued to support VCLA through donations, he said.


“Every day that we learn here, someone can have a meal, which is pretty amazing.”

– Peter Gillis, Executive Director of VCLA


For example, he received an unexpected donation of $10,000 from the Coldbrook Lions Club.

“It was surprising,” Gillis said.

He said fundraising “pays for things that aren’t government-funded programs” while money raised through the Literacy Mile “fills in the gaps”. It helps pay for transportation and childcare for learners and helps support VCLA’s expanding food programs.

The funds also help pay Meagan and Jenny Osburn to work part-time in the commercial kitchen. Formerly of the Union Street Café in Berwick, the sisters work three days a week preparing healthy meals, making enough to cover the remaining days.

“Every day that there’s learning here someone can get a meal, which is pretty amazing,” Gillis said.

He said VCLA’s work includes teaching English to newcomers, who can earn cooperative education credits toward high school equivalency diplomas through life-saving learning programs. experience.


The Valley Community Learning Association held its Literacy Mile fundraiser on June 11.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time since 2019 that the event was held.  CONTRIBUTED
The Valley Community Learning Association held its Literacy Mile fundraiser on June 11. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time since 2019 that the event was held. CONTRIBUTED

Growing Opportunities

Kathleen Novelia, YMCA employment and education manager, said the VCLA and YMCA collaborate on experiential learning opportunities.

She said co-op education largely focuses on employability skills and helps teach newcomers about Canadian culture. She said education, knowledge and literacy equaled power and the ability to defend oneself.

Both organizations use the community gardens and commercial kitchen of the 3.3-acre VCLA property, which serves as a business incubator for some newcomers to the area.

For example, Hela Souibgui, a woman from Tunisia who just started a business called Easy Peasy Tunisian Food, provided catering for the Literacy Mile event. Souibgui named his business “Easy Peasy” because it was an English term that his son picked up and started saying.

Souibgui also sold her food at the Kentville Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays.

Novelia said they have taken other newcomers, who have started food businesses but are not yet comfortable speaking English, there to sell under the Valley Food Co-op name.

“Kentville Farmers Market is like a partner. We go down and they kind of let us experience that,” Novelia said.

She said community dinners are held at the VCLA property during the summer every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. prepared with ingredients from community gardens. Members of the larger community are welcome.

Other businesses and organizations involved in Community Dinners in the Valley include Flying Squirrel Adventures, the Kids Action program, and Mentoring Plus.

Novelia said these initiatives provide valuable hands-on and business learning opportunities.

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