The Fayette County Community Action Agency is working to turn the county's economic tide by introducing a GED program that emphasizes job readiness, as well as a solid academic foundation.
"We started this program in the early 1980s" said instructor Sue Wagner. "Our parent agency, Community Action, established a center in Connellsville because it is a central location. Also, the community center is active."
The registration process for the program is simple. "All you have to do is call the community center," Wagner said.
Those who pass the Tests of General Educational Development earn the equivalent of a high school diploma. There is no charge for the classes, although there is a $50 testing fee for the final exam.
Wagner said that all GED students must have withdrawn officially from their former school.
"They cannot be connected with the local school system in any way," she said.
Bobbie Lint of Connellsville is earning her GED so that she can continue with her job at the South Connellsville Personal Care Home.
"It's great to have a lot of information and a lot of support," Lint said.
She appreciates the program's flexibility.
"You can come in the morning or in the evening," she said.
Once students are enrolled in the GED program, they are given an assessment to gauge their academic strengths and weaknesses.
"We then write an educational plan based on those needs," Wagner said. "We gear instruction towards the needs of the students." Students are active participants in their own education, she said.
"We discuss with the students their goals. We also connect them with other resources if they need them, such as housing assistance and medical assistance."
Wagner said that chronic absenteeism is a problem in many schools.
"We have referrals from local schools," she said. "We also try intervention and even cyber-school, if we think it will help the student."
She pointed out that GED classes aren't like those at a regular high school.
"We're open year-round," she said. "Our teaching style is different from that of regular schools, because we tailor it to our students. Some students work better in groups. Some work better independently. We're more flexible."
Wagner said that earning a GED doesn't take as long as people might think.
"If a student comes to class every day, that student can make some remarkable progress in two or three months," she said.
At the end of the course of studies, a student receives a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma.
She said that education is a good investment, not just for the student but for his extended family, as well.
"If someone has a GED, that person can get a better job and make things easier financially for his or her family. Also, kids see that the parents are committed to learning, …