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People - Adult Education Center is a fast track to success

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By John Shindlebower

 

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The small wood-framed building on Main Cross in Taylorsville has been a center of learning since it was constructed in 1909. For most of its existence, it housed the public library. Today, it’s home to the Spencer County Adult Education Center, and its purpose is to help boost educational opportunities for adults who dream of bigger and better things for their lives.

The center helped Angelina Rocca-Leezer achieve her dream of becoming a licensed cosmetologist.

“Starting over and trying to get my GED was very scary and hard,” said Leezer. When I made the decision to go for it, the Adult Learning Center was my first choice,” she said.

She worked with director Jennifer Griffith and Lola Sipes, an instructional assistant and over the course of about a year, was able to earn her GED.

Griffith said passing the test requires a lot of commitment on behalf of the students, most of whom have been out of school for at least a few years.

“A lot of our students have kids and jobs and they come here at night, after they’ve worked 10 hours a day,” said Griffith. “Then they leave, they have to go home and take care of their families. I give people a lot of credit who stick with this. It’s not easy.”

Griffith said students who come in for their GED, are typically pre-tested to gauge their level of knowledge and skill, and then the work begins.

Most of the students struggle some with math, so the center offers two three-hour sessions during the week. The staff works with the students, sometimes one-on-one, and homework is also assigned.

As students begin to grasp the subject, they are then given ready tests, and once it’s determined they’re prepared, they can take the GED exam. Griffith said GED certifications require passing four subjects, including Math, Language Arts, Social Studies and Reading.

Students are encouraged to focus on one subject at a time, and Griffith said the amount of time it takes to earn a GED depends largely on the level of the student when they arrive. Those who have been out of school awhile, are usually a little further behind. But the hard work can certainly be rewarding.

“Lola and Jennifer are amazing women,” said Rocca-Leezer. “They keep you focused and help you by teaching you in a way that you really get it. It’s like a light bulb. It took me about a year to get my GED, but I did it.”

Rocca-Leezer went on from there, graduating from cosmetology school in 2014, and she is now working in a salon.

Griffith said one of the strengths of the local Adult Learning Center is its small size. She said some students who have attended similar classes elsewhere, benefit from the smaller groups and more individual help.

“It’s not intimidating because of the small classes,” said Griffith. “Part of me likes this small, one-room school atmosphere.”

She said keeping things less complicated for the student is important.

“We try to be mindful that this is hard for a lot of people.”

Griffith said changes announced earlier this year should encourage others to make the attempt. She said the GED certification now has three levels. Before, students had to score 150 on all parts of the test to pass, but that standard has now been reduced to 145. Those scoring higher can qualify for elevated GED certificates, one of which is GED College Ready, and the other being GED College Ready with 10 college credit hours awarded to the recipient.

The Adult Learning Center offers much more than just GED preparation, said Griffith.

Adults who are interested in becoming instructional assistants in local schools must take and pass a para educator exam.

If an applicant passes the exam, the center forwards that result on to the school district.

“If they don’t pass, or if they want to brush up on their skills, we encourage them to take some of our classes, especially in math.”

Autumn Chesser, who graduated from Spencer County in 2014, recently passed the exam thanks to taking some classes at the center.

“I had printed off the study guide and I realized I didn’t understand the math. She signed up for math classes and finished up earlier this month.

“It was really helpful. There’s no way I could have done it without them. They’re really great teachers,” said Chesser.

There are other learning opportunities for adults at the center. They offer courses and tutorials for students who are preparing for the Compass college entrance exam. This test is widely used in public schools to help assess college and career readiness and often paves the way for students to continue their education at a community college or vocational school.

The center also preps those with a GED or high school diploma to get a leg up on the competition by taking the ACT WorkKeys Assessment, a job skills assessment that helps match employees with appropriate jobs.

The center also administers the National Career Readiness Certificate, which an increasing number of employers are requiring. This test measures both academic skills and social skills.

For those adults who need help learning basic literacy, the center can offer assistance there as well.

The Adult Learning Center is operated by the Spencer County Public Schools, and anyone wanting more information about the services they offer, can contact Griffith at 477-3265.