Local Hero: Rachel Zestar-Postrk’s social media fund drive helps adult literacy students afford GED exams

    When Rachel Zestar-Postrk thought about education, about teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, she usually thought about kids in grade school.

    She didn’t think much about adult learners until she moved to Philadelphia two years ago and was looking for in volunteer tutoring position. In the past, she had tutored children in grade school math and reading and thought it was something she would continue until she found shocking statistics about the city’s high school dropout and unemployment rate.

    That’s when she decided to volunteer for Center For Literacy (CFL), Pennsylvania’s first non-profit community-based literacy provider that offers programs in adult basic education, GED preparation, English as a second language and family literacy.

    As a tutor, the twenty six year-old works with students for about three hours a week, focusing on problems that are most relevant to the lives of the learners, like budgeting and writing checks as well as basic reading, writing and math.

    “It’s interesting because when you think about high school drop outs, you think they are going to have issues getting a job because they don’t have a diploma, but really the issue may be that they were not learning,” said Zestar-Postrk.

    Through working with a student who was determined to get her GED, Zestar-Postrk gained a strong desire to do more for others.  She embarked on her first ever fundraising initiative to raise $1500 for CFL. The social media campaign was a partnership with Philly4Philly, a movement that enables residents to lead the fundraising initiatives for a community project at the non-profit organization of their choice. Her specific project was designed to raise funds that would mitigate the $75 cost for the series of five GED exams.

    She began fundraising in August 2012 and completed the project in December raising a total of $1503 by utilizing social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as well as directly emailing her contacts, which was the hardest but most effective component of the campaign.

    “One thing I realized is that a lot of people do want to donate and give back, it’s about giving them the opportunity,” said Zestar-Postrk. “I was surprised how rewarding it was and to be able to see the direct impact of it. It made me a little more extroverted and willing to get out of my comfort zone.”

    Michael Westover, CEO, said the grant couldn’t have come at a better time especially with the cost of the test expected to go up next year.

    “If somebody does not have a high school credential, their earning power is somewhat diminished and coming up with $75 or $120 can be a hardship so we will be able to help them out with that,” said Westover.

    He added that the pen and paper version of the test will be discontinued after December of this year and will be replaced by computerized test. The change will also include an increased test price for students.

    In addition, students who started taking the test with pen and paper are required to complete all five tests utilizing pen and paper. They are also suggested to complete them by the end of the year or they will have to start all over using computers next year.

    CFL will be utilizing the funds Zestar-Postrk raised towards the needs of qualified GED testers after June 1st when they implement a series of GED refresher courses to support the campaign “Your Future is Calling.” The courses will help adult students who are mid process in obtaining their GED wrap up during 2013.

    “Anybody that has completed one test and are in our fast track classes, we would be willing to pay for additional exams until the money runs out,” said Kathy Meck, director of development and marketing.

    Rachel is still tutoring at CFL and says it’s nice to have the opportunity to see some of the people that will use the money towards their education.

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