Woman dedicated decades to education

By JUSTIN STORY bgdailynews.com

Thirty-one years after beginning her professional life in Bowling Green teaching inmates at Warren County Regional Jail, Mary Ford closed out her career Tuesday at the jail, offering congratulations and encouragement to those who had earned their GED diplomas.

Ford, who is retiring as the program manager for adult education at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, spent the time in between motivating people to better themselves through education.

The daughter of Mississippi Delta sharecroppers, Ford said her father stressed the importance of education as a means to improve her life.

Ford s involvement in adult education here evolved from being a GED instructor at the jail to overseeing the GED program, basic computer skills, college readiness, employability and other adult programs offered by SKYCTC.

Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode said Ford s unflagging optimism as a mentor to people struggling to find their footing in a changing job market is one of her most impressive qualities.

She s just a positive person who saw the importance of the GED program at the jail and she s never stopped helping, Strode said. Her attitude has been, I want to help them, because they ve taken the first step toward helping themselves.

Ford graduated with a degree in business education from Alcorn State University in Mississippi and earned a master s degree in education and behavioral science studies from Western Kentucky University.

After an unsatisfactory stint as a student teacher, Ford eventually transitioned to adult education, finding her niche helping those without a high school degree who found themselves stifled by a lack of education and wanting to make up for lost time.

This was a second chance for most of these people, and they were really into it and worked hard to get it, Ford said of the students she taught. They had made mistakes and couldn t go any further, and I felt they were really sincere about learning.

The format of the GED was changed near the end of Ford s career so that the test is more difficult, but it is also meant to give a clearer indication of a student s readiness for post-secondary education.

While Ford had some reservations initially about the changes, she sees the importance of the new test and believes the graduates are better prepared for professional and educational opportunities.

Ford occasionally hears from people she has taught over the years who thank her for her help.

They still remember you and appreciate you and let you know it, Ford said.