The Autumn Court ABLE Class of 2014 included: (front row) Marelese Stever, instructor, (second row) Jenny Brown, Sharon Mangiapane, Wesley Harris, (third row) Bernice Ruhe, Autumn Court Activities Director, Ed Davis, Jackie Scott, Marvin Beach, Lapeda McCormick, and Dr. Jan Osborn, Putnam County Educational Service Center Superintendent. Not pictured is student Norman DeLeon. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
The Autumn Court ABLE Class of 2014 included: (front row) Marelese Stever, instructor, (second row) Jenny Brown, Sharon Mangiapane, Wesley Harris, (third row) Bernice Ruhe, Autumn Court Activities Director, Ed Davis, Jackie Scott, Marvin Beach, Lapeda McCormick, and Dr. Jan Osborn, Putnam County Educational Service Center Superintendent. Not pictured is student Norman DeLeon. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)

OTTAWA — Grins, cheers, and applause were plentiful on April 29 at Autumn Court, as seven residents celebrated their participation in an Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE) program that was designed especially for them.

Bernice Ruhe, Autumn Court’s Activities Director, related, “This all started when a resident said she wanted to go back to school. I got hold of the ESC (Putnam County Educational Service Center) to see if anyone would be willing to teach.”

Autumn Court is a skilled nursing facility that provides specialized care for persons with behavior and mental health issues. Residents range in age from 26 years and older. Several of the residents attended college, and some even finished college, but because of their illnesses, they were unable to function in society.

Putnam County ESC Superintendent Dr. Jan Osborn and Marelese Stever, the lead GED (General Educational Development) instructor, collaborated with Autumn Court to design a curriculum for the residents.

“Our mission is to provide life-long learning opportunities for residents in the community,” explained Dr. Osborn. “This is a great example how we are able to reach our mission, thanks to Marelese.”

Each Tuesday, for the past two years, Stever volunteered her time at Autumn Court, teaching very basic skills in reading and math. The residents were so excited to see her, they waited at the door to greet her.

“I was just delighted to be able to work with a diverse population of students who were not able to come into the classroom,” Stever declared. “It gave the students contact with others in a controlled setting.”

“Bernice had the idea that (these classes) would make the residents feel better about themselves,” said Nick Scheck, Autumn Court’s Administrator. “And boy, it’s worked!” “It’s been a great improvement for all of the students,” added Ruhe. “We could tell their confidence was up on the days they had school.”

Stever noted the Autumn Court students read the Bible more than any other class she taught. She gave each student a cross or a fish to mark a favorite passage in the Bible.

In addition to sharpening their basic education and their confidence, some students enhanced their physical therapy skills, such as holding a pencil.

Dr. Osborn presented each student with a framed certificate of attendance for his or her participation in the ABLE program. The students’ faces lit up with grins that were a mile wide as Dr. Osborn shook hands with them.

Jenny Brown crowed, “Finally!” when she received her certificate. She was one of the star pupils; even when class was not in session, Brown got out her books and wrote essays. She sometimes wrote two to three letters a day.

“It warms my heart to see this,” said Scheck. “We’re their family.” He explained that many of the residents have no family, or their family lives far away.

The future of Autumn Court’s ABLE classes is in question. Stever is retiring in June, and Dr. Osborn was uncertain if the program would be able to continue. He assured that he would be having conversations about its destiny.

The Autumn Court ABLE Class of 2014 recognized Stever for her dedication, as student Marvin Beach shyly presented her with a certificate and a bouquet of flowers. Then came the best part of all.

“We wanted to celebrate,” grinned Ruhe, “So we got cake.”