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NAPLES, Italy — The Navy College Learning Center in Naples risks shutting down if more people don’t use it.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Eugene Mpacko bristled at the thought.

"No, please. They shouldn’t close it," said the 12-year sailor, who uses the center to work toward a degree in business administration and get a better grasp of English, his second language.

"They help me with everything, from math to reading skills; the whole nine yards," said the native Cameroonian who grew up speaking French.

Earlier this year, when the Navy suspended the Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Education Services and College Level Examination Program exams, many people stopped coming to the center, said facilitator Tina Matcke, one of two full-time center employees. With no tests being administered, students didn’t need to prepare for them.

Navy officials suspended the program, known as DANTES, in March following the loss of paper exams on several bases and ships; it resumed in May. The program gives sailors access to a variety of higher-education opportunities, including college exams and law school entrance testing.

A recent analysis of the center’s usage rate, which came in at less than 25 percent of the eligible population, was done when the program was suspended, Matcke said. Now that the DANTES program has resumed, and fall college classes are getting ready to start, Matcke hopes more people will start using the center’s services.

Depending on the time of year — summer, for example, is usually quite low — the usage rate runs from 25 percent to 40 percent, she said.

Originally, officials planned to close the center by September, but it has a reprieve until January, when the situation will be reassessed.

The learning center offers free services to help students prepare for standardized tests ranging from military advancement exams to college entrance tests, as well as tutoring and reviewing topics including chemistry, physics, history, economics, sociology and reading, writing and mathematics. The military, civilians, and their dependents are eligible to participate.

Facilitators also offer life skills courses that teach students "how to get along better with people on the job, better communication skills, how to get along with people you might not like," Matcke said.

Taneshia Sherrill, 27, said she would be "lost" without the services. She’s being tutored one-on-one to help her make it through college courses as she works toward a degree in nursing, especially in topics of math and science.

"It’s been a long time since I’ve been to school, seven or eight years, and a lot of it I couldn’t remember," Sherrill said.


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