Diverse Student Body Normal for Ogeechee Tech’s Evans Adult Education Program
To say that the Adult Education program at Ogeechee Technical College’s Evans Technical Education Complex is diverse is an understatement. A number of students from different backgrounds make up the student population at the center, which is located in Hagan. Not only teens and 20-somethings, but students of all ages and varied situations make up the student population. John Parker is Lead Instructor and Sonya Waters is an Instructional Aid with the program, and they see a constant parade of unique students. “We see students with all sorts of life stories, but the one common thread is a desire to improve their lives through education,” stated Parker.
One student whose story is a bit different than most of the others at Ogeechee Tech’s Evans County program, is Pecola Hall of Hagan. Hall is 78 years young, and is determined to improve herself by getting her General Education Development (GED®) certificate. According to Hall, she likes learning, but did not have that opportunity when she was younger. “I went to school through the eighth grade, but then I dropped out of school, and I started a family at a young age,” said Hall. As a single mother, Hall was forced to work to support her family, and she did so by working at food service establishments, on farms, and as a housekeeper. Her longest job was for 18 years at the Claxton Poultry Farms processing plant. After retiring from that job, she stayed home only a short time before beginning work in a school lunchroom. She liked that job, but soon learned that she needed a diploma or GED to continue in that position, so she decided to begin work on her GED at Ogeechee Tech.
Sonya Waters says that “Ms. Pecola” is one of her favorite people, and John Parker points out that many of the program’s younger students are motivated by Hall. “They see her doing this work at age 78, and they decide if she can do it at her age, they don’t have an excuse for not doing well, too,” said Parker. As for Hall, she enjoys her time in the program. “I enjoy what I’m doing. I may not be as fast as I should be, but I’m getting there!” said Hall.
Barbara and Jimmie Bell are a mother and son team who are seeking their GEDs at the Evans Technical Education Complex, too. Barbara Bell brought her son Jimmie to the center to sign up for GED classes, and was asked by Waters if she had a diploma or GED certificate. When Bell stated that she did not, Waters invited her to, “sit right down and we’ll sign you up, too!” said Ms. Bell. Like Pecola Hall, Barbara Bell started a family at a young age, dropping out of school in the 10th grade. “I am really working on my GED for the personal satisfaction of having it,” said Ms. Bell. Jimmie Bell wants to pursue his education in Criminal Justice, and having a GED is a necessity for him to take his education to the next level. “I left school in the 10th grade just like my mom. The traditional classroom setting was just not working for me,” stated the younger Bell. “Even though I am doing this for myself, if an opportunity comes along which requires a diploma or GED certificate, I’ll have it,” Ms. Bell stated. The mother and son team both agree that coming back to school has been easier than they thought it would be. “The instructors are very helpful, and that makes a big difference,” said Jimmie Bell.
“We never know what sort of students we will have with our literacy and GED programs, but one thing we do know is that we can help them improve their lives,” stated Parker. Waters agrees with Parker, and states, “The most rewarding part of our job is seeing the students achieve something great in their lives. They have so many more opportunities once they have gotten their GED.”
Ogeechee Technical College operates Adult Education programs in Bulloch and Screven Counties, in addition to the program in Hagan. “For so many, the first step to completing education which can develop into a rewarding career is getting a GED certificate. Often the hardest part is taking that first step and actually enrolling in the program,” stated Ogeechee Tech Vice President for Economic Development, Lori Durden, who oversees the Adult Education programs for the College. “We have a great group of faculty members who help students with literacy skills and with their GED training, but often the most important thing our instructors do is encourage a prospective student to take a leap of faith and enroll,” said Durden. Pecola Hall and the Bells all agree that the encouragement they received from instructors made the decision to pursue their education an easy one.
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