1976 - 1979
1990 - 1993
1998 - 1999
2003 - 2004
2004 - 2005
As a component of Southern Mutual Help Association (SMHA), Congregation of St. Joseph (CSJ) Sisters Alice Macmurdo and Francine Nason, with the help of VISTA and Mennonite volunteers, undertook the ministry of educating the under-educated and limited-reading adult sugar cane plantation workers in St. Mary and St. Martin Parishes.
PEPI, originally named Plantation Education Program, Inc., was incorporated under the auspices of the Congregation of St. Joseph as a community based volunteer program offering basic literacy instruction to the plantation workers in Iberia Parish. The early days were extremely difficult. They sat on porches, under the trees, in kitchens - wherever they could get one or two people together - amid much anger and verbal abuse from the plantation owners. Reading and writing instruction was freely given to a group of people who had never dreamed they would have this opportunity. Gradually, the community attitude changed and the program became better known, accepted and organized.
As a member of the Laubach Literacy Action Council, PEPI concentrated its effort on instucting adults in basic literacy skills, one-on-one, with volunteer tutors who received training and certification. During this time, PEPI served 560 GED learners and 834 basic literacy learners.
Through the generosity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, PEPI was able to move indoors and was housed at St. Jude Hall from 1983 - March 1991.
With the help of government library grants, PEPI was able to purchase computers and appropriate software thus enabling the literacy services to be expanded to computer assisted instruction.
In August, 1990, the State Office of Family Support contracted with PEPI for the educational component of their Project Independence Program which served welfare parents. Through this collaboration, 100 welfare clients were enrolled in the GED preparation classes annually.
New programs and methods evolved and a change from one-on-one tutoring to a small group collaborative approach was undertaken.
Along with an Office of Family Services (OFS) vocational education contract came the need for a new software program. With the help of SSND, PEPI purchased Job Skills Education Program (JSEP) as well a twelve new, networked computers on which to work, hired an instructor and lengthened its daily schedule to allow OFS clients time to work this 30 hours per week segment - 20 hours on JSEP and 10 hours on GED preparation.
Two experienced SSND teachers / former administrators were added to PEPI's staff and a special instructor was hired for a one-year OFS contract for Job Skills Training.
A Department of Education grant allowed PEPI to begin opening the program to adults outside of OFS.
Sr. Rosarine Gonzales, SSND retired as director of PEPI and was succeeded by Sr. Lorraine Landry. With consistent demands for ESL (English as a second language), the majority of which were from the Laotian community, the literacy program was changed from 5 days a week to 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) which allowed the instructor, Sr. Magdalen Broussard, MSC to hold ESL classes on Tuesday and Thursday.
Recognizing the need of this population's day workers, PEPI added an evening class two days a week. Eventually the ESL component was expanded to meet Monday thru Thursday from 8 am to 12:30 pm.
With PEPI's programs continuing to grow, a technology overhaul was a must. A grant from Stuller Foundation allowed PEPI to re-wire the computer lab, upgrade and network the computers as well as have them all internet accessible.
During this time, the administration of all education components was transferred from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to the State Department of Education (DOE). At the same time, the Department of Labor (DOL) requested that all OFS clients as well as all adult education learners participate in WorkKeys, a certificate program aimed at better preparing Louisiana's workforce.
To prepare for these changes PEPI received money to purchase 15 new computers, the best software on the market and instructional materials requested by the staff. A TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) grant was awarded to PEPI to work with clients who met the state's criteria and a former PEPI graduate was hired to run the program; however, the program had many obstacles. As a result of these difficulties - keeping clients in the program, maintaining the required number of hours, communicating with Baton Rouge - PEPI received only about 50% of the awarded funds.
The shift in funding from OFS to DOE resulted in a substantial impact on PEPI. The contract for Vocational Education was cancelled. GED funding would be reduced.
With reduced state funding, PEPI looked to other sources. Allocations from SSND, United Way of Iberia and Dollar General Stores allowed PEPI to meet its financial obligations. PEPI began participating in the state's GED online program.
At the end of the school year in June, PEPI moved to its current location on the Teche Area Campus of the Acadiana Technical College, 609 Ember Drive, New Iberia, LA.
In response to requests from adults employed full time during the day, PEPI began offering a night class on Monday and Tuesday from 6 - 8 pm. Unfortunately, this class was discontinued after only two school years due to poor attendance.
To accommodate more learners, PEPI began offering two sections of instruction, two days a week each. Section 1 instruction is offered on Monday & Wednesday, Section 2 instruction is offered on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is reserved for testing of students who have accumulated 40 hours of classroom time and for learners who want additional tutoring.
PEPI continues to rely on like-minded foundations, local community organizations, small fund raisers and individual donations to offset dwindling federal and state funding.