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Forget the Debt! New Program Offers Free College Degree

Posted on December 20, 2019

Johnstown, PA (Dec. 20, 2019) – Forget the student debt! For anyone interested in a career as a teacher, a new program makes earning a degree cost free. Through this initiative, some college credits can even be earned on the job. Best of all—it’s being piloted right here in Cambria and Somerset counties. The Pennsylvania Rural Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship Program, available now through The Learning Lamp, will work with individuals with no or some college, or a degree in another field, and help them earn credits for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and even a Pennsylvania teaching certificate, allowing them to teach grades PreK-4 in a public school.

The program aims to attract more people to the field of early childhood education and help those already working in the field improve their skills and credentials, and increase their wages as they meet educational milestones. Not only does the program benefit the participants, it improves the quality of the preschool or child care center where they work by building the skills of staff and stabilizing the workforce. A pilot program launching in January is being funded by the Grable Foundation.

“The quality of a child’s experience in an early learning program depends in large part on their teacher,” said Kristen Burns, Associate Director of The Grable Foundation. “This apprenticeship program offers early educators support for their own continued professional growth, access to valuable credentials, and the chance to complete required coursework online – important in rural communities where attending regular classes at a university campus may not be feasible. Teachers who complete the program will be well-prepared to help their young students thrive throughout their early years and beyond.”

A group of six employees of The Learning Lamp will begin earning college credits in January. Coursework will be completed online through Shippensburg University, with no tuition payments required. The employees are paired with master teachers at their work locations who help them learn and apply skills.

“This program is a huge opportunity for people who enjoy working with children and want to improve their skills and knowledge, but have no way to pay for college. It opens the door for anyone to become a credentialed teacher. Imagine earning your teaching degree with no debt! Now, it’s possible,” said Leah Spangler, Ed.D., President and CEO of The Learning Lamp.

Coordinated by The Learning Lamp, the program will be rolled out to other child care providers later this year. For additional details, contact Leah Spangler at 814-262-0732, ext. 223 or lspangler@thelearninglamp.org.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. The Learning Lamp served 32,799 children and adults from 53 public school districts and 66 private schools and community organizations in 17 counties of Pennsylvania in 2018.

Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

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