By Johnny Jackson
The adult education programs in Clayton and Henry counties provide instruction in basic education, General Education Diploma (GED) preparation and English as a Second Language. Day and evening classes are offered at no cost on a space available basis. And space is limited.
These classes are nearly full each Monday and Wednesday evening. According to Cookie Keene, the coordinator for adult education in the district, about 200 people in the area turned out for registration to take adult education classes at Forest Park High School this quarter.
"I'm not so sure I will personally make an impact," Keene said. "I think this is an opportunity for lifelong learning. I feel we have a very strong track record of adults who have succeeded."
"It's an absolute necessity for those who have not had an opportunity to obtain their high school diploma in traditional settings," said Calvin Austin, GED preparation lead instructor. "I can remember a grandmother and grandson attended GED classes together; they were almost in tears when the grandmother got her GED."
Austin said the program has several different facets that accommodate particular lifestyles.
Shirley Oliver teaches English as a second language. She said she teaches immigrants who not only need to know better English but want to know better English.
"It's very rewarding to be able to talk to their children's teacher," Oliver said. She pointed out a student from Laos, a former refugee who started learning English a few years ago. "We have students from Vietnam who were prisoners of war. We have many stories here from students who need and want to learn."
Josephine Jordan has been taking GED preparation classes for a year. Recently, she said she performed well on her pre-GED exam. But Tuesday Ms. Josephine, as her peers call her, nervously sat in front of her first actual GED examination.
"I'm nervous about the test," she said the night before. "I don't know why. I got to have the confidence in myself."
Jordan, 58, said she was married and pregnant her senior year in high school. She works in housekeeping at an area hotel, but explained there is no room for regret.
"I dropped out of school, and it's been 40 years," she said. "I thought I was too old but I decided to get my GED."
Jordan said forty years ago, she didn't realize the opportunity to go back to school pregnant like some students do today.
"(But) it's a better feeling for me than it would have been when I was 18," she said. "I've enjoyed going to class every Monday and Wednesday. I do my homework and I study when I can."
"My family is proud of me; they're glad that I decided to do it," she said.