‘41 Action News’ showcases how MCC is helping students improve reading skills

KSHB photographer Al Miller (right) records video during one of Millie Nottingham’s reading classes at MCC-Penn Valley.

Metropolitan Community College continues to make a difference for those students who arrive at college without some basic reading skills. These efforts caught the attention recently of a Kansas City television station.

Cynthia Newsome of KSHB’s “41 Action News” interviewed MCC-Penn Valley reading coordinator Millie Nottingham and some of her students about how concentrated intervention to improve literacy changes lives.

MCC-Penn Valley offers a counseling-based program called GEARS, Guided Educational Access to Reading Skills, that supports reading literacy. It can start before students take a developmental reading course. Students don’t have to be in GEARS to take reading classes, however.

The GEARS program was established because a large number of incoming MCC-Penn Valley students scored low in reading on placement exams.

GEARS launched at MCC-Penn Valley in 2011. Since then, 673 students have been through the program. On average, students who complete GEARS increase their reading by two grade levels.  Additionally, GEARS completers who enroll in the college credit sequence of reading courses have an average completion rate between 80 and 85 percent.

Nottingham explained to Newsome that college-age students struggle to read for a variety of reasons. “Some didn’t learn to read as children or in high school. Others had to work and could not attend school,” Nottingham said.

MCC-Penn Valley freshman Gloria Stewart is a strong advocate for the program: “If you know you need help, and reading is not your strongest point, and this class can help, you take the class,” she told Newsome. ” ‘Cause if you have people who want to make fun of you or if your friends are making fun of you, then they are not really your friends.”

Freshman Yasmina Aldape, who temporarily dropped out of high school, wants to be a nurse and she is determined to succeed. GEARS made a difference for her, she said. “It’s a second chance. As long as you keep on trying, you eventually get there if you put your mind to it.”

The GEARS program is free to students.

Watch Newsome’s report here:


For students who would like to know more about the GEARS program, please contact the MCC-Penn Valley Counseling Center, 816.604.4308.

All MCC campuses have services that support students in need of literacy assistance. Click here to link to counselors collegewide.