By Clay Wilson
Susan McIntosh says that if she could have her way, she would stay in school for the rest of her life.
That's the way she feels now. It's not at all the way she felt in ninth grade, she said, when she dropped out of high school.
" ? I got married and just never went back," she said.
Not, at least, until she was 25.
That was when the Hampton resident decided that, at least for the sake of her children, she decided to go back to school for her General Education Diploma (GED).
"I've got four girls and I don't want them to grow up thinking they have to depend on somebody else all their lives," she said. "I decided I wanted to do something with my life and show my children that education is important."
McIntosh enrolled in the adult literacy program at Griffin Technical College. According to adult GTC literacy secretary Wendy Gladden, although Henry County does not technically fall within the school's six-county service delivery area, many Henry County students attend the program.
The program is set up on a 10-week quarter system, Gladden said, but students "stay in the program as long as it takes for them to be ready to take the GED test.
McIntosh obtained her degree in February of 2000, after about a year of preparation. But, she said, she enjoyed the classes so much she would like to have stayed.
"You never once felt uncomfortable about your age, or the reason why you were there, or if you didn't get it," she said. "They make you feel like you can do anything."
McIntosh did stay with the program for a while after she got her diploma, helping to teach GED classes. She went on to take a course in medical transcription and now works in the office of a Griffin optometrist. She said she has contemplated going to nursing school.
McIntosh said she feels that obtaining her GED definitely opened the door to her new career.
"If I'd come in and said I had a ninth grade education, who's going to want somebody (like that) running their front office?" she said.
"Without your education you don't have anything."
According to U.S. Census figures, in 2000 almost 3,100 people in Henry County over the age of 25 had less than a ninth grade education. Another approximately 8,800 people had no high school diploma.
Griffin Tech is not the only area agency that provides adult literacy programs. The Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education (which oversees the program at GTC) also oversees a program for Henry and Clayton counties.
GED classes are held at the Henry County Education Center next to Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge. GED tests are scheduled monthly.
However, local program director Elaine Keene said that the program could be very valuable to the success of families.
"You empower families through education," she said. "My foundational belief is that for children to be successful in school, a family must invest in its own success.
"A lot of our participants have children themselves. We have a lot of opportunity to help with that environment."