Byline: Pat Neleski, Times-Union staff writer
KINGSLAND -- One of the largest classes ever will graduate from the Kingsland Adult Literacy Center in May.
Thirty-three students have passed the General Educational Diploma test since July, surpassing in seven months the previous year's total of 24. Enrollment at the center also is up.
"They're increasing in droves," said Elaine LeViness, site coordinator for the Camden center.
Some days, her two-room schoolhouse on the outskirts of Kingsland is full to capacity. Students crowd the desks and computers to study for the high school equivalency test, to learn to speak and write English, and some just to read. It's a welcome sight, said Johnnie Graves, director of the adult literacy centers in Camden, Glynn and McIntosh counties.
"I think it's very good, looking at where that particular site has been," he said.
Though only the director since January, Graves, 51, was the chief examiner for the GED program for this area for several years before that and has seen the Camden numbers grow.
For now, Camden students make up 9 percent of the total number of GED graduates in the three-county service area. The majority of the graduates come from Glynn County, where seven instructors work with a group of volunteer tutors in a suite of classes in downtown Brunswick.
LeViness is the sole teacher in Kingsland, with a handful of literacy volunteers and occasional math and science tutors. LeViness came to the center in June, after working as a principal at a juvenile detention center in North Georgia.
With bachelor's degrees in English and art and master's degrees in learning disabilities and reading, LeViness has also taught in literacy programs in Tennessee and North Carolina.
"I've taught in chicken barns," she said. She's listened to the stories of those she has taught and shared in their triumphs.
LaViness said there is no shortage of students seeking a second chance to get their educations. Ninety percent are young adults from 16 to 21 seeking to complete their diplomas after dropping out of school.
While many students attend only sporadically, more students are actually taking the test than in years past. Some are ordered to attend the classes as part of their sentence in county drug court or to continue receiving public assistance. Others are learning to read for the first time.
"Every week, I get eight to 10 more students," LeViness said.
Students in the program have a variety of reasons for seeking their diplomas. One of the more determined students is Zeny Burdick, a native Brazilian who survived a horrible childhood, became a servant in the homes of wealthy Brazilians and then became fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English. …