GED graduates celebrate successes

Graduation is a day to remember. Walking across the stage, hearing applause and cheers, being able to spend time with friends and family and receiving a diploma are just a few of the countless happy memories associated with graduating school or college. This year’s graduates of the Henrico Adult Education program experienced each of those components when they completed their courses and received their GEDs in the presence of their families and professors earlier this month.

Since July 2011, 701 Henrico students have taken the GED test, which requires the participants to pass sections focused on math, reading, writing, science and social studies. Of that number, 376 have passed and have received their GEDs and 52 attended this year’s graduation ceremony, said Beverly Godwin, Henrico’s Adult Education administrator.

“Graduation is an awesome experience and is always something that I look forward to,” she said. “It is nice that they have their loved ones there to watch them walk across the stage.”

For more than three decades, the Henrico Adult Education program has worked to prepare students for the road ahead. A number of courses are offered at various skill levels to help those 18 years and older reach their potential in and out of the classroom.

Students have several options as to which classes they can take, Godwin said.

There are Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes, in which students work on building basic skills in reading, writing and math, she said. “Classes also focus on developing critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

There are also English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, which provide instruction in speaking, reading and writing English and understanding American culture; students are encouraged to attend a minimum of 70 hours in order to make substantial gains. Godwin said that several levels of each class are offered to fit the needs of the students.

Additionally, there are General Educational Development (GED) classes, which serve learners who have demonstrated academic readiness to prepare for the GED tests, Godwin said. The GED test will be changing in January 2014, she said.

“The new test will continue to measure high school equivalency but will also include a career and college readiness performance level,” she said. “The new test will contain more rigorous content. The overall goal is to better prepare learners for successful transition to secondary education and competitive employment.”

In Henrico, classes are offered at the Highland Springs Adult Education Center and at the Mt. Vernon Adult Education Complex, both during the day and in the evening, to make sure that anyone who is interested is able to take part.

The mission of the program is to provide diverse educational opportunities that will assist adults in acquiring the skills and knowledge that will lead to further education, employment and personal success, said Godwin, who has been working in adult education for the past 12 years.

It is the responsibility of the teachers to help these students on their way to success, said LaTonya Simmons, the ABE/GED coordinator at Highland Springs.

“As adult education professionals, we help equip citizens with the necessary skills to not only realize their dream of earning a GED, but also to create and obtain new career and personal goals they previously considered unattainable,” she said.

Ann Gareau, the ESOL coordinator, had a similar viewpoint about helping non-native English speakers complete their goals.

“We are here to help them gain the language skills they need to be fully engaged in their community,” she said. She urged anyone who might be interested in, or might benefit from, an ESOL class to take advantage of the services.

Godwin explained that each year, programs across the state receive a Program Performance Report Card from the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education and Literacy after being evaluated for financial management, target performance and policy compliance. For four consecutive years, the Henrico program has been recognized as a Tier 1 top performing program, which is the highest level of performance.

“We are extremely proud of our Tier 1 recognition,” she said. “Being recognized as a top performing program is a testament to our talented and dedicated staff, hardworking students, and supporting School Board and Central Office leadership. We are honored by this recognition, and look forward to continuing to provide a comprehensive and quality program to our community.”

The most rewarding part of the job for Mt. Vernon ABE/GED Coordinator Sandra Jackson Allsbrooks is seeing the smiles she receives from her students when they have experienced success.

“So often our students, for whatever reason, did not have a positive school experience and there tends to be a lack of confidence…To see the smiles and to hear them say ‘I’ve got it’ lets me know that we are doing what we have been placed here to do,” she said.

Said Simmons: “It is essential that the value of adult education is not underestimated…Successful adult learners set higher standards of excellence not only for themselves but also for their future generations. Adult learners bring a fresh perspective to life-long learning.”
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