Ukrainian brothers Oleksandr and Kostyantyn Grushovenko waited decades before learning in 2020 that they would be able to join another brother who had moved to the United States in 1998. Then the pandemic delayed their move to Greenville until this February, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To help jumpstart their new lives, the brothers, as well as Oleksandr’s daughter Anna, 22, enrolled in language classes at Greenville Literacy Association.
“I love these classes,” says Anna, adding that the teacher keeps the class fun and the atmosphere among learners is friendly. “The first month was difficult, then I started thinking in English and speaking with my classmates. After that I felt more comfortable very quick.”
GLA helped all three register with SC Works to begin exploring employment options while they improve their English. The men plan to pursue commercial driver’s license training as they did in their native country. Anna, who studied acting in Kyiv and who enjoys painting and drawing, is interested in graphic design. The future looks promising, even as she waits to be reunited with loved ones still in Ukraine.
“I sold five paintings at the Greer International Festival, all dedicated to Ukraine,” she says. “I like America so much, I may want to live here all my life. For this I need to have my fiancé and my mother here.”
Quadaja Barr also found the help she needed to overcome barriers to education and career success through GLA’s local partnerships. Barr dropped out of school at 17 to leave a troubled home life for an early marriage that ultimately ended in divorce. In 2021, after several moves and failed attempts to resume her education, she found herself starting over again.
“I decided it was time for me to go back to school to be eligible for a decent-paying job so I could survive,” Barr says.
SC Works’ Eckerd Connects Youth Program referred her to the GED Bootcamp taught by GLA instructors in partnership with Goodwill Industries. She started in January 2022 and passed her final test in May.
“I was tired, working 70 hours a week at a warehouse while balancing school. My teacher helped me as much as he could, but nobody was going to do it for me,” Barr says. “Now I know I’m capable of going to college regardless of the situation I’m in.”
Financial assistance and the flexibility to take some classes remotely helped her succeed. With new confidence, she plans to enroll in Greenville Technical College for the spring 2023 semester with the ultimate goal of becoming a surgical technician.
Executive Director John Jaraczewski says GLA’s new strategic plan aims to expand access to education leading to upward mobility, making more stories like these possible.
“During the pandemic, many of our students were at the front line working in our community so many of us could remain safe at home,” he says. “Today, they are confronted with a drastically different job market, one that requires additional skills beyond a GED or improved English to secure a self-sustaining wage.”
Recent census data indicate nearly 64,000 Greenville County residents aged 18 and older lack a high school diploma, and more than 20,000 cannot speak English fluently.
“Success in today’s job market requires an array of skills ranging from reading and math to specialized vocational skills. Yet, thousands of adults in our area lack these skills and remain underemployed and economically disadvantaged,” Jaraczewski says.
The Community Foundation of Greenville has provided $131,559 to support GLA’s work, including a $10,000 Capacity Building Grant in 2021 and multiple grants from the Dr. J.C. and Dorothy C. Frazier Endowment.
CFG President Bob Morris says, “Our partnership with Greenville Literacy Association spans three decades and its board and staff are nimble and persistent champions of adult literacy and workforce development.”