GED Instructor and Student-Tutor Coordinator
Gwen Soult joined PCLC in August 2022 as our GED Instructor and Student-Tutor Coordinator. She is a graduate of Bucknell University with a BA in Sociology and an MA in Human and Community Development from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she was also a lead teaching assistant. In 2011, Gwen returned to Bucknell as an adjunct lecturer and simultaneously began as owner/operator of Wayside Acres, a goat and dairy farm in Newport, PA.
Jennifer Murling joined the PCLC’s staff in March 2022 as Coordinator for the Perry County Commissioner’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). “PCLC partners with so many Perry County agencies. I like that when I have a client who needs a service that PCLC doesn’t offer, I can just make a call and connect the client with someone who can help.”
Prison GED Instructor
Renee Derr became enamored with PCLC’s adult education program when she brought her son to get his GED. She had recently been forced to retire from teaching after being diagnosed with a disabling condition. When a part-time opportunity to teach adult education presented itself at Perry County Prison arose, Renee was delighted: “Everyone [at PCLC] is so nice—I just kind of got swooped up in it all, and here I am teaching again!”
Renee earned her BS in Education from Penn State University and her Masters of Education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is PCLC’s adult education instructor at Perry County Prison.
Director of Operations
Christie Caswell’s seemingly lighthearted motto, “Make good choices!” has become a trademark during her 25 years in workforce development, local government, sales, emergency services, and housing. However, Christie firmly believes the phrase can take on a deeper meaning: “Every day we all come to a fork in the road, and making a good choice doesn’t always mean making the easiest choice. We know immediate gratification isn’t going to get most of us to the finish line.” She joined PCLC’s staff as Grant Writer and Assessment Specialist in July 2022 knowing that she would have the opportunity to work side-by-side with our clients and students to help them reach their goals. Christie has her BS in Business Administration from Millersville University.
Established in 1992 through a partnership with Capital Area Headstart, the West Perry School District, and various local community agencies, the Perry County Family Center strives to promote the positive development, health, and well-being of young children throughout Perry County. The Center seeks to strengthen family life and provide a place for families to find information and support that will help them make important decisions about their families. Some of the services provided by the Center include parenting classes, financial literacy classes and car seat loans—as well as the UWCR Prosperity Center, which offers help to those applying for various state and federal benefits for their families, such as food stamps, cash assistance and health care coverage.
PCLC collaborates with the Perry County Prison and the faith-based community to offer a Community Reentry Program to inmates who voluntarily commit to the program. PCLC is committed to a mission that extends to all Perry County residents, including the incarcerated. The Perry County Prison has been an outstanding partner, supporting adult education with GED® classes for inmates. In addition, a case management model addresses individual reentry needs and barriers. A faith-based support group follows each class, promoting values and personal commitment to rehabilitation. Each inmate pairs with a mentor from the faith-based community who will act as a sponsor as the inmate reenters the community. Private funding from the faith-based community and foundations supports this project. Community Reentry Project participants will have access to various PCLC community programs as they reenter.
The Perry County Housing Partnership develops affordable housing opportunities for Perry County residents, including low-income, disabled, elderly and/or homeless individuals and families.
Perry Human Services provides weekly counseling sessions (by appointment) for Perry County residents recovering from addiction. In addition, they offer cash assistance, food stamps, medical assistance and emergency fuel for lower-income families, as well as referrals for training, education and jobs.
Tri-County Community Action offers various services toinformation and referral services, family self-sufficiency, case management
The work we do at PCLC would not be possible without support from the community in which we live and work. Therefore, we make it a point to contribute to that community by getting involved with numerous initiatives that, like us, are working to improve the lives of Perry County residents.
PCLC’s community engagements include:
Member—Perry County Family Service Partnership Board
Board Member—Perry County Chamber of Commerce
Member—Perry County 2015 Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee
Member—South Central Workforce Investment Board Local Management Committee
Member—Perry County Human Services Office Direct Service Team
Member—Perry County Health Coalition
Member—Perry Empowerment Task Force
Board Member—Tutors of Literacy in the Commonwealth
Advisor for Adult Education, Workforce Development and Rural Access
Community Referral Agency with hundreds of contacts
EDSI EARN—Welfare program that provides clients with cash and food stamps.
EDSI Career Advisor—EDSI receives state and federal funding used to pay for both on-the-job and classroom training for PCLC students. In order to be eligible for training, a client either must be low-income or have been dislocated due to a closing, firing or downsizing.
EDSI Workforce Innovations Opportunities Act (WIOA)
Participants enroll in WIOA to obtain training and/or employment. All WIOA services are provided onsite.
EDSI Jobs Connections
EDSI Job Club – Job Club is held two times every month (usually the first and third Thursdays of each month) and is a requirement for on-the-job training. The club offers various workshops that help students explore and navigate the world of employment.
EDSI Employment Consultant/Job Developer – These consultants talk with potential employers about openings for job-seeking students, which are subsequently posted on the CareerLink website.
Tests of Adult Basic Education – Onsite
ACT WorkKeys® Testing – Onsite
Pearson VUE Authorized Test Center – Career Certification Testing
CareerLink® and CWDS support
The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) is a state agency that helps individuals with disabilities help themselves to prepare for, begin, and maintain successful careers. OVR case managers are available by appointment at PCLC.
Established in 1993 in honor of Dollar General co-founder J.L. Turner (who was functionally illiterate) the Dollar General Literacy Foundation commits itself to assisting individuals of all ages receive the education they need to access post-secondary education and steady employment. The foundation has awarded over $110 million in grants to nonprofits and schools that have helped more than 6.8 million people learn to read, learn English, or prepare for high school equivalency testing.
A partner of PCLC since 2013, the PNC Foundation is committed to the enrichment and growth of the communities it serves as well as empowering people in those markets to maximize their human potential. The foundation recognizes that communities thrive and flourish through creative problem-solving and seeks to contribute the funds needed to seed the ideas, support the initiatives and encourage the leadership of those organizations where imagination and determination are at work enhancing the lives of the people they serve. As part of its partnership with PCLC, the PNC Foundation backs the initiative that supports our computer-based testing site, which provides Perry County residents with sustainable local access to GED testing. PNC’s support also extends to financial literacy classes with local PNC employees, who provide volunteer instruction on topics such as budgeting, savings and financial education. PNC provides these services in collaboration with the United Way of the Capital Region Prosperity Center in Perry County.
The Highmark initiative was created to recognize organizations that demonstrate the proven ability to make an impact in diverse rural and urban neighborhoods where there may be minority populations, individuals with a disability, veterans or displaced workers seeking career opportunities and advancements.
Highmark recognizes the significant barriers to self-sufficiency faced by undereducated and unemployed youth and young adults. As a business with interest in improving the conditions in communities in their service areas, Highmark demonstrates their commitment to economic development and quality of life, granting funding to the Perry County Literacy Council for youth and young adult career awareness and development, training and job placement.
Supporting a collaborative delivery of services, Highmark has funded the purchase of a vehicle for Perry Apex Services Unlimited (PASU) and transportation accounts for 20 Perry County youth (ages 18 – 25) to travel to PCLC classes as well as to training and employment interviews and appointments. A Program Coordinator supports students as they obtain workforce credentials and transition to training and/or employment. Highmark recognizes the transportation and access barrier in a rural community and therefore supports this project targeting young people in these areas.
The Perry County Community Foundation (PCCF), established in 1987, is a nonprofit public charity and a regional foundation of the Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC). The PCCF makes grants to nonprofit organizations that serve residents of Perry County. PCCF also serves as a vehicle for individuals, companies, foundations and charitable organizations to establish funds that will support the civic, social, educational and cultural well-being of Perry County residents. The Foundation ensures that all gifts, ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand, will work to improve the quality of life of Perry County residents both now and in the future. The Community Foundation has been a generous supporter of PCLC; their support funds innovative programs that address growing and changing needs within our rural community, and their funding model provides guidance and support for new programs aimed at building the service capacity of our nonprofit organization.
Established to support various nonprofit organizations throughout Perry County, the Harold Greaney Charitable Trust distributes discretionary funds to those nonprofits that demonstrate the greatest level of financial need. The trust has offered a great deal of support to PCLC—particularly via the James and Melinda Marley Emergency Needs Fund, which provides many of our clients and students with emergencies that require financial aid. Such situations might include purchasing a gas card in order to drive to appointments or interviews or paying a car repair bill.
An initiative by the Foundation for Enhancing Communities, the TFEC Women’s Fund targets low-income women in search of steady work. As a partner of TFEC, we at PCLC offer classes that help these women earn National Retail Federation (NRF) certifications and become proficient in Microsoft Office.
Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler established this foundation in their names in 1966 to benefit charitable, religious, scientific, literary, and/or educational ventures, especially those that operate in central or eastern Pennsylvania. The Stabler Foundation provides grants for educational institutions, parochial schools and nonprofit hospitals and medical facilities. The Foundation also makes grants to private organizations and institutions that provide services and assistance to the mentally, physically or developmentally impaired or disabled; people suffering or recovering from drug or alcohol abuse; and the elderly and financially disadvantaged.
PCLC is a proud partner of Community Aid, a charitable organization whose nonprofit partners agree to allow Community Aid to place one of their clothing collection bins—recognizable by their tan color and three helping hands on the side—on their property or other public locations. The donated clothing placed in the bins is removed several times each week and sold in Community Aid thrift stores. Based on the weight of the clothing in each bin, a particular nonprofit is awarded with a quarterly cash donation per pound; PCLC uses this donation to support our scholarship fund. In addition, partners receive Care Cards (clothing vouchers) for the needy in their area; these cards can be used in any one of Community Aid’s thrift stores. Following an introductory period of partnership, a nonprofit partner becomes eligible to apply for grants during announced application periods. Community Aid’s partnerships with local nonprofits has helped these organizations continue to improve the quality of life for local individuals and families.
The Lawrence and Julia Hoverter Charitable Foundation, with roots in Perry County, has been a generous longtime supporter of PCLC. Their funding has allowed our agency to maximize the numbers of residents it serves; it supports programs that have allowed countless students to obtain GED and workforce credentials, as well as to overcome transportation and employment barriers.
Customer Service Representative
Russ Hulslander joined PCLC in 2017 as a Customer Service Representative. When anyone walks into PCLC, Russ will likely be the first person they’ll meet—he’s responsible for connecting our clients and students with someone who can help. Russ assists with IdentoGO Fingerprinting and proctors HiSET testing and takes great joy in helping clients complete electronic applications and forms. He’s also a Navy veteran, and we thank him for his service to our country and our clients.
For nearly 20 years, Linda Strawser worked in the field of customer service. In 2017, she brought her vast experience to PCLC, where she helps with IdentoGO Fingerprinting, answers the phone, and assists customers. Linda believes in the work that PCLC does and is fond of saying, “It’s a great place to work. Until I started working here, I was sitting at home alone every day—I can honestly say that PCLC saved my life.”
Assistant Office Manager
PCLC Receptionist and Assistant Office Manager, Jamey Deiter’s motto is “Don’t wait for opportunity—create it.” In 2016, Jamey did just that when she asked if PCLC needed help answering phones and assisting customers. We hired her on the spot and never looked back. Jamey loves working at PCLC for many reasons, but mostly, she says, “Because I’m proud of the support services we offer that put people on a path for success”.
Since January 2011, Jerry Barrett has served as PCLC’s Workforce Instructor, teaching National Retail Federation Customer Service classes and Teknimedia Digital Literacy. In 2014, with the GED’s transition to an all-digital test delivery model, Jerry became a Pearson Vue Test Center Proctor. Jerry earned his BS in Education from Penn State University.
Rob Isenberg has managed PCLC’s IdentoGO Fingerprinting site since 2017. Rob’s excellent customer service skills and efficiency have earned our site such a great reputation in the region that clients routinely come from as far as Selinsgrove and Chambersburg for fingerprinting. Rob is proud that the site now generates a profit that supports PCLC’s many services. His favorite thing about PCLC is learning about what we can do to assist Perry County residents. “I’ve worked here for over four years, and I’m constantly amazed by all the services we offer,” he says.
Student Support Coordinator
PCLC Social Worker and Intake Specialist Emma Groff’s motto is: “When you get tired, learn to rest—not quit. Emma likes that no two days are ever the same working at PCLC and that she can do so much to help her clients. “I have access to many support services that I can offer to support Perry County residents as they overcome a wide variety of barriers to success. Some may need only one service, while others may need many—but it’s a great comfort to me that I can use my discretion to figure out the best ways to help.”
Emma earned her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from HACC and her BS in Early Childhood Education from Eastern University. Before joining PCLC in July 2021, Emma worked for the United Way as an Educational Liaison.
Early Childhood Outreach Specialist
In April 2019, Lauren Kerlin joined PCLC as our Early Childhood Coordinator to help us open our Early Childhood Resource Center. Lauren operates our childcare center, helps parents find suitable childcare options, coordinates evening activities for preschool children and their parents, and provides opportunities for PCLC students to enroll their children in Head Start and other services which help to ensure that every child is ready for school.
Leslie Heimbaugh began her career at PCLC as a part-time Office Manager in 2009. Since then, she became full-time and added GED Proctor, HiSET Proctor, Scholarship and Transportation Coordinator, and Development Officer to her list of titles. After earning a BA in Communications from Central Penn College in 2022, she was promoted to Assistant Director. Leslie says, “Once I started working at PCLC, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Helping people to meet their goals of self-sufficiency is my passion.”
Before she started at PCLC, Leslie owned and operated a catering/baking business and worked as an Art Director for WITF and many regional advertising agencies.
Executive Director Emeritus
“Do the best you can for as many as you can for as long as you can.” PCLC’s Executive Director Kathleen Bentley’s 50+ year career in public service demonstrates her firm belief in this powerful sentiment. Kathleen began her work with PCLC in 2007, after retiring only a few months earlier from a 35-year-career as a teacher and reading specialist at Loysville Youth Development Center (LYDC). While her adjudicated LYDC students had all the material comforts they needed—items such as clothing, food, shelter, and transportation to appointments—many of her students and clients at PCLC had nothing. They could study and prepare for their high school equivalency tests, but several students couldn’t afford to pay to take the test or get a ride to take it. Kathleen knew right away that she needed to gather funds that she could use to remove these and other barriers for her students—and that’s when everything changed. Once she informed public and private supporters of the need, those donors responded generously and PCLC’s support services program was born.
Kathleen earned her BA in Special Education from Hasting College and her Masters of Education from Shippensburg. She has received many honors throughout her career, including Correctional Education Teacher of the Year both nationally and internationally; A Lifetime Achievement from The Conference for Women-Be Extraordinary; and the 2019 Healthcare Hero Award from the Pennsylvania Health Access Network.
High school was difficult for John Banks. Though never bullied, he couldn’t stand how fellow students treated each other and felt like he simply didn’t fit in. Anxious and frustrated, John spoke with his family about his concerns. This led to trying charter school and then traditional schooling once more, until the pandemic hit.
“We were right back to the same Zoom sessions that didn’t work with the charter school,” said Jeanette. “That was the clincher, so I thought, ‘Okay – here’s what we’re going to do.”
John’s parents recommended that he go to Perry County Literacy Council (PCLC) for classes to earn his high school equivalency diploma.
“My parents thought that I should try it out,” said John. “My mom was worried because she knew that I didn’t always get all my work done in school, but she knew that I cared about getting my diploma – and she had faith in me.”
John loves coming to PCLC. Since entering the program last September, he has completed three of the four tests required to earn his high school equivalency diploma.
At PCLC, we work to provide educational programs for Perry County residents and families that enable them to better function as productive and responsible citizens. Within this process, your donations and gifts help us continue to provide these classes and resources to each resident. Overall, your gift can help change a life forever.
PCLC offers many options for donating, but if you prefer to make your gift by check through mail, please send it to:
Perry County Literacy Council
P.O. Box 37, Newport, PA 17074
We look forward to continuing our work with your help!
A donation to PCLC means more than just money; it means a changed life in Perry County and in some cases, the changed life of an entire family. Your donation keeps our mission going and helps us continue to educate those looking to improve their skill level in order to pursue a better future.
Here's how your donation can help:
Your donation stays in Perry County and solves problems. It helps reduce the county's reliance on unemployment, public assistance, and housing subsidies by heightening the education levels of residents.
Even more, your donation pays it forward and helps create new pathways to jobs that pay. Specifically, every adult who earns a GED contributes an additional $60,000 in tax revenue over a lifetime.
To see specifically how your donation impacts a life, check out our info graph below.