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The highest concentration of active students live in West Chester (26%), followed by Coatesville (18%), and Phoenixville (15%). Students ages range from 18 to 80+ years, all with an eagerness to acquire or improve their English language skills and their understanding of U.S. culture so that they may achieve their personal goals such as sustainable employment, financial stability, and civic engagement. VEP students represent 50 countries from 11 regions of the world and speak 37 different languages. Presently, 78% of VEP students are women and 22% are men, with a median age of 43. More than half reported full or part-time employment, with many students holding multiple jobs in order to sustain a living, while 49% reported low-income levels based on Federal Poverty Guidelines. An increasing number of students live along Route 202, Route 3, and Route 30 corridors, from Exton to the Main Line, from West Chester to Phoenixville and points south. VEP is 100% philanthropically supported; services are delivered without any state or federal funding. Tutors, volunteers

and in-kind contributions add close to $300,000 to fund its operational budget. The organization relies on its volunteers, local and regional foundations, local rotaries, congregations, and service groups for support in order to offer all program services. VEP is governed by a 14-member volunteer board of Directors, as well as a nine-person Advisory Council who represent the Chester County community and share their expert knowledge in the fields of English as an International Language, higher education, information technology, finance, banking law, in addition to private and nonprofit business management. Terri Potrako is VEP’s current Executive Director, and her primary responsibilities include organizational leadership, community partner outreach, strategic program and resource development. Terri began her involvement with the organization as a tutor and became VEP’s fourth executive director in 2013. “A colleague of mine was serving on the VEP Board when the search opened for the new director as my predecessor was retiring. My background in non-profit health care administration, development, and community relations

VEP Executive Director Terri Potrako were the skills that the organization needed to advance their strategic vision,” she explained. Terri shared some insights regarding the volume of students the organization works with annually, as well as numerous student and instructor success stories. “We average 200 or more served every year. Some students remain involved for several years as they work through their personal and professional goals. Over 33 years, we’ve tutored thousands of students,” she said. During the last two years, Terri and the staff at VEP have experienced a surge in inquiries and student requests, as individuals continue to respond to the shift in the broader U.S. political climate. At a point when national attention on issues concerning immigration has generated great uncertainty, the sense of urgency among Chester County residents has driven the wait list for an instructor to more than 150 students – many of whom are currently waiting nearly 10 months to

MAY 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM

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Profile for The WC Press

The WC Press Education Issue - May 2019  

Voice of the Borough

The WC Press Education Issue - May 2019  

Voice of the Borough