After working together at Clark College and seeing firsthand that the education system doesn’t serve every student and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education, Paul Vasquez and Alex Herrboldt began formulating a dream to open a small tutoring center dedicated specifically aimed at adults who have dropped out of high school.
Finally, in 2018, the PAX Learning Center was founded as a nonprofit educational organization to meet a growing need in the community — a need that Herrboldt said was far greater than anticipated.
“As we continued to work for college, we saw countless students dropping out of GED and high school credit recovery programs across the state, and it sparked a desire to help those who needed us most ‘ Herrboldt said. “PAX was created to catch those who fall through the cracks. In the final years of our careers, we have watched helplessly as enrollments in both GED and English as a Second Language classes plummet due to increasing barriers in our students’ lives and the overwhelming challenges our students faced in an increasingly rigid academic program , went back.”
Herrboldt said research on these students shows that their educational trauma makes them ill-equipped to participate in such programs and requires extra patience and diligence to overcome these barriers. He said their confidence needs to be nurtured and their skills developed, but that takes time — time that a system focused on results and budget constraints cannot spare.
After combining the teaching methods of Vasquez and the methodology of Herrboldt behind running a successful tutoring center, the PAX Learning Center was formed.
The mission of the PAX Learning Center, a 501(c)(3), is to provide youth and adults with teachers and tutors to support their educational goals. PAX offers free GED classes to youth and adults. Herrboldt said they will be offering English as a second language classes to Ukrainian refugees and other non-native speakers in the community this fall. He said they work with community partners like Val Ogden, WorkSource Washington and now Partners in Careers. PAX also provides a human resources/educational referral service to these and many other organizations. Herrboldt said this allows her students to find a way to work or continue their education during and after their GED degree.
“Volunteer tutors are at the heart of PAX,” Herrboldt said. “We see tutors not just as a supporting factor in a student’s educational journey. We see tutors as the word originally meant them to be teachers. We provide Tutor training and support for Tutors to take up classes and we give them the flexibility to cater to the needs of each individual student. Each tutor is trained to understand and embrace the core values of PAX, but we encourage individuality and creativity when working with our students.”
Working with her Next Success partner, Herrboldt said PAX also offers her graduates the opportunity to give back to the organization and their fellow students through paid tutoring internships, where they can share their knowledge and expertise with other students who are following in their footsteps .
Since starting PAX in 2018, they’ve helped 373 students achieve their GED and restored 292 students with enough credits for their high school diploma, according to Herrboldt. He said they have seen great growth and surprising sustainability from year to year, even through Covid.
“In 2018 we had 100 GED recipients, which increased to 177 GED recipients in 2019,” he said. “When Covid 2020 hit, like many organisations, we lost a lot of ground and many students dropped out. But we were thrilled to see that we still reached 33 GED recipients due to the launch of our online program. In 2021 we had 36 GED recipients.”
Herrboldt said they took a short detour from GED services to work with Family Promise of Clark County to help them at their new learning center by providing more than 10 tutors to help 25 homeless youth in K- 12 system to help those who were behind and failed school.
“By the end of our six month contract from January to June 2021, Family Promise and PAX helped all 25 youth go from failure to passing with one extraordinary young woman who was off track to graduate, turn it around and to keep going time in this short time,” he said. “It was truly an amazing and humbling experience for everyone involved. For 2022, the re-opening of our physical locations has proven very beneficial and we are now slowly but surely expanding each of our locations again. We know this is a long-term process and that good word of mouth takes time to develop, but we’ve already seen the fruits of our dedication to our students, and more peer-to-peer recommendations are signing up all the time.”
In addition to the ESL course that PAX will be launching at the end of September, the organization will be launching another program around the same time in which they will be teaching people who are from the Xchange Recovery Program, which is now affiliated with Living Hope Church they were referred. To fund the reopening of in-person classes and programs at PAX, Herrboldt said the organization received a $50,000 Clark County American Rescue Plan Community Grant.
“We are very excited to return to teaching in person, and we are grateful to the county for awarding this scholarship and to Living Hope Church for their partnership,” he said.
Like most other nonprofits, Herrboldt said PAX’s funding comes primarily from peer donations, business donations, and grants. This is also the second year of the organization’s participation in GiveMore24! and Herrboldt said one of her tutors provided $3,000 for related gifts this year. He said they were also very fortunate to receive a grant this year to hire a consultant who would help PAX develop a five-year strategic vision and help the organization become more financially stable. PAX works with Westby Associates, Inc., and Herrboldt said they helped them deepen their mission, broaden their vision and focus more on the strategic plan they created.
To learn more about the PAX Learning Center and how you can get involved or volunteer, visit the website at paxlearningcenter.com.