PEPI leaves a 40-year legacy of empowerment

Student from PEPI at graduationIn June 2018, the Progressive Education Program, Inc. (PEPI) closed its doors after almost 40 years of providing educational opportunities to the community. PEPI offered education to adult learners since 1979. The Congregation of St. Joseph founded the program, originally named Plantation Education Program, Inc., because early classes were held where students could attend, often in fields or farms. PEPI was formed as “a community-based volunteer program offering basic literacy instruction to the plantation workers in Iberia Parish. Reading and writing instruction was freely given to a group of people who had never dreamed they would have this opportunity.”

PEPI’s mission to “empower adults through education to become the best they can be for themselves, their families and society,” was geared toward adult learners, 19 years and older, seeking to better their circumstances. Many enrolled in order to take the high school equivalency test while some wanted to learn and to better understand the English language. Literacy was always the main focus of PEPI; however, different classes were created to meet the growing demands in the work force. Over time, PEPI offered computer skills, math classes, prepared students for college and worked on job skills such as, filling out applications, writing resumes and preparing for interviews. Adult learners who attended PEPI were asked why they chose to attend and the overall majority said, “To better myself and become more successful within my place of employment.”

PEPI went through many organizational changes from 1979-1993, when the School Sisters of Notre Dame got involved. As one of SSND’s supported ministries, the sisters were able to propel the program into the future. With the support of SSND’s grant funding and their educational skills, new instructors were hired and the program was reorganized in order to meet the adult learners at their education level.

S. Barbara Kraus; SSND at PEPIFrom 1991-2018, 10 SSND sisters were called to ministry at PEPI, with duties ranging from tutoring to administration. Sister Barbara Kraus served 16 years with PEPI, starting as a computer lab instructor from 2002-2007. After Sister Lorraine Laundry retired as the PEPI director, Sister Barbara was the only person who applied for the job. She helped close the program after 11 years as director. Sister Barbara said, “I loved the people and staff I worked with--challenging, but most rewarding.” She was sad to see the program close due to the changing economic situation, but Sister Barbara was pleased to be handing it over to the South Louisiana Community College who will continue to take care of the community.

For additional information read the article - Reception to say thanks, bye SLCC takes reins from Sisters of Notre Dame.

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