GED offers new opportunities for Franklin residents

By CHUCK MASON The Daily News cmason@bgdailynews.com 783-3262

Man holding a instructional book talking to class

Adult education coordinator Ray Haddix discusses
American history Monday, October 20, 2014, during
an English Language Learners class at Southcentral
Kentucky Community and Technical College
Franklin-Simpson Center in Franklin.
(Bac To Trong/Daily News)

FRANKLIN It is just a piece of paper.

But according to those who teach others to take the big test and those who have finally obtained a high school diploma equivalent, it is an important step in life, one that can open doors to new opportunities.

High school diplomas have become the first step to a better job, almost critical for obtaining a job, officials say. Though an associate s degree, bachelor s degree or a certificate of learning are more critical in employers eyes, the high school diploma is still a critical rite of academic passage.

A 66-year-old woman and a 54-year-old man, both of Franklin, took different paths to receive their GEDs. The man is using his GED to try to move up in his employment, while the woman, now retired, obtained hers to fulfill a longtime goal.

The Simpson County Adult Education Center inside the Franklin campus of Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College was recently named No. 1 out of all similar centers in the commonwealth. Rankings are determined by achieving enrollment, academic performance and GED attainment for the 2013-14 school year, said Ray Haddix, center coordinator. The center reached 106 percent of its goal for student enrollment 176 students and 100 percent of GED attainment 35 GEDs awarded, Haddix said.

The center has ranked second or third each year in the state prior to the No. 1 ranking, Haddix said.

The center also offers free English language classes. It provides scholarship opportunities through Wal-Mart and Dollar General grants obtained to help defray GED costs. The GED price increased this year from $60 to $120, and the curriculum changed, Haddix said. For those with little means, qualifying for scholarships helps. The center, through the state of Kentucky and scholarships, can also offer a price break on the GED cost, $40 compared to $120. To get the low price, a student must qualify for a special testing voucher.

The GED test measures aptitude in reading and English language arts, science, social studies and math. It used to have five sections; now it has four. The full price of each section is $30, Haddix said. The new format allows students to take one test module at a time.

The staff at the Simpson County Adult Education Center is truly phenomenal, said James McCaslin, vice president of outreach and community development at SKYCTC. Their care, compassion and supportive nature ensure that the students with whom they work are successful.

Kay Drake helps Haddix with student instruction. Jamie Cruz serves as the center s administrative assistant. Drake also teaches GED classes at the Simpson County Correctional Facility.

Students take a pre-test to see where they are in their learning. Haddix said the pre-test helps instructors zoom in on skills needed rather than spending unnecessary time on skills the student has already mastered.

Success stories told

Martha Talley, 66, got her GED when the Franklin campus of old Bowling Green Technical College was in the old Wal-Mart building. Andy Mitchell, who played linebacker at Franklin-Simpson High School, received his GED just a few days before Christmas, taking classes at the new center on Davis Drive in Franklin, just off Interstate 65.

Both dropped out of high school when life circumstances and high school no longer fit.

man and woman writing at desk

Meena Pathak (left) and Bhavin Lad, both of Franklin
work on English lessons Monday, October 20, 2014,
during an English Language Learners class at
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical
College Franklin-Simpson Center in Franklin.
(Bac To Trong/Daily News)

Talley said she left Warren County High School now Warren Central during her junior year when poverty embarrassed her. Looking at the other girls and their daily outfits in the mid-1960s, Talley left school and went to work at a chicken packing company.

We were real poor. We didn t have any money, she recalled last week.

Eventually, she worked for Union Underwear. The plant closed in the early 1990s. Still without a high school diploma, Talley was urged by her daughter-in-law, Amy, to take the GED class. Talley said her first struggle was algebra. That was the hardest part. The rest of it was a piece of cake, she said of the year-long regimen of classes in the old technical college building.

Talley enjoys her high school passage with her eight grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Mitchell s GED was a Christmas present in 2013. When his dad, Levi, contracted cancer in the 1970s, To help his family, Mitchell, now 54, dropped out of high school, went back a year later, then dropped out again for good just one year shy of graduation. He found a job in a Portland, Tenn., factory. That eventually led to a job at Quad Graphics for 28 years. When that job disappeared, he found part-time employment at Harmon and has a shot at full-time employment there.

The 18 months he worked with the staff at the Franklin center were rewarding, he said. When I lost my job at Quad Graphics, I thought, What am I going to do? I made the decision to get the GED when I was drawing unemployment.

Mitchell said GED classes helped refresh his academics.

The GED was part of his ongoing life plan, Mitchell wrote in an essay assignment. My important goal is to finish going to school. I want to try and finish my education and get my GED. Afterwards, I plan to help myself get another good job. So I will be able to pay my bills, food, and gasoline to go back (and) forth to work.

Mitchell said he made decisions he had to make and doesn t regret them. But, he said, through the GED classes, It s paid off now.

Mitchell has never strayed far from his love of football. He wore No. 54 when he played for the Wildcats and has a Miami Dolphins room at his house. It has been my favorite NFL team since childhood, he wrote in an essay for GED class.

His most powerful writing assignment was an essay on cancer, the disease that took his dad in 1985.

My opinion of cancer is a sad thing. Because many people who get cancer have a hard time coping with cancer, he wrote.

Haddix said education is important. I like to think everybody who comes through the door, we can help. We are so small, we have the opportunity to work one-on-one with students. It is an advantage to help people in such a quick manner.

Talley and Mitchell recommend that people interested in obtaining a GED shouldn t hesitate.

Try as hard as you can, Talley said. I had to study a lot.

For more information on Kentucky adult education, go to www.facebook.com/KYAdultEducation. To contact the Simpson County Adult Education Center at 175 Davis Drive in Franklin, call 270-586-1682.