(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at the invitation of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Taleah Mitchell of Seattle testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee during a hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Senator Murray has long supported expanding education opportunities for students from all walks of life.
Mitchell went through Washington state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program, or I-BEST, at Seattle Central College. She recently earned a certification in Business Information Technology and an Associate Degree in Computer Science and Women and Gender Studies and is now an assistant manager at a Seattle retail company.
Mitchell’s formal public education ended after the fourth grade. She continued to read and write on her own, and at age 16, she took the GED and enrolled in college, but dropped out to help her family run their business. After the family business closed, Mitchell worked entry-level jobs and lived paycheck-to-paycheck.
When her family moved to Seattle, she found a flyer for the I-BEST program at a YWCA and spoke to a school counselor. Mitchell credits the I-BEST approach for her success. The I-BEST program has two instructors in the class at the same time – one to teach basic skills like reading, math and English – and the other to focus on job skills.
Mitchell’s story underscores the important role of adult education and its potential to help those who didn’t think they had the chance to get a college degree. Mitchell’s brother has followed her footsteps, and is currently attending Seattle Central College.
During today’s hearing, Sen. Murray outlined her principles for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, including making college more affordable, strengthening protections so students have access to a safe learning environment, ensuring all students have clear pathways into and through higher education, and reducing the crushing burden of student debt. More information on Sen. Murray’s statement at today’s hearing.