From recent immigrants looking to improve their English skills to stay-at-home parents interested in going back to school, adult learners who want to make the transition to San Bernardino Valley College have Maria Lopez and Pete Gonzalez on their side.

Lopez and Gonzalez are California Adult Education Programs counselors, who help students navigate the process of enrolling in college while promoting SBVC's services and classes. SBVC is part of the Inland Adult Education Consortium, and its model program for transitioning students was recently recognized by the state of California, scoring high enough to be highlighted at conferences and distributed to regional and state officials.

No two students are alike, and they all enroll in adult education for different reasons — some want to improve their upward mobility, while others would like to be role models for their children and inspire them to seek higher education. In some cases, people are retired and just looking for something to do outside of the house. Lopez and Gonzalez help guide all of them toward the best learning outcome.

"A lot of students didn't really enjoy online learning and have been wanting to get back in person as soon as possible," Gonzalez said. "On the other side of the coin, the online environment really met some of their needs, and they are excited to get it done this way."

People who have gone through the transition process with Lopez and Gonzalez often turn into advocates of the adult education program and SBVC, and trust the counselors so much that they refer friends and family to them.

"That's huge for us," Dr. Emma Diaz, director of the California Adult Education Program, said. "It shows what Valley represents to the community, and how people feel safe to go here."

Last year, Gonzalez and Lopez helped more than 1,600 ESL students in the Inland Empire make the transition from adult education sites to San Bernardino Valley College. This major accomplishment was made possible by an initiative first funded by AB86 in 2013, which restructured adult education in California. Before this, there was no one at the local adult education sites helping students make the leap over to a community college. AB86 provided $25 million dollars to consortia across California, and their leaders were tasked with developing regional plans to improve and expand adult education.

Lopez and Gonzalez work closely with English as a Second Language students, and when they encounter someone who speaks a language they are unfamiliar with, the counselors use Google Translate to communicate. The ESL program has grown substantially over the last two years, and many of the students received college educations in their home countries — current students include an architect from Peru who wants to earn his master's degree but must take ESL classes first, and a husband and wife who are a doctor and professor, respectively. 

"We are doing our part to connect students, to give them the social mobility to feel like they are part of the community," Diaz said. "More than anything they want to be able to communicate and read a bus schedule and go to work and feel like active citizens."

It's never too late to start or go back to school, whether a person is a native speaker or needs ESL classes. Often, a student who starts out only wanting to earn their GED will realize that with a little preparation, they can continue their education at SBVC.

"A lot of them are successful, and look at this as a second chance," Lopez said.