GED: The cap and gown alternative

by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

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Whatcom student Ayanna McCabe, 17, was behind schedule to graduate high school due to stress at home. Her family had been moving frequently, and balancing a job made it difficult to attend school at the same time.

“Getting a GED just made sense,” said McCabe. She started Adult Basic Education classes, or ABE, at Whatcom last fall, and received her results for the test February 22. GED stands for General Education Development. To receive a degree is the equivalent of having graduated with a high school diploma.

“I thought I’d need another year before I took the test,” said McCabe. “All the teachers definitely try their hardest to make sure you are where you need to be.”

McCabe said one of her ABE teachers Denise Ranney was ecstatic when she found out McCabe had passed her test. McCabe would have graduated spring 2011, but by entering the program at Whatcom she received her GED a year before she was on track to graduate.

She is hoping to receive financial aid so she can continue her education this spring quarter, and enter the Nursing Assistant- Certified program.

Whatcom offers a preparation program for any one desiring a foundation or brush up on academic skills, before taking the GED exam.

The program offers basic education classes such as ESL, reading and writing, listening and speaking, Civics classes, basic computer classes, presentation classes and math.

Christie Rector, 36, hasn’t been to school in 15 years. She is also taking the Adult Basic Education classes, and hoping to get into the Nursing Assistant program this spring to eventually become a Health Unit Coordinator. She started her preparation classes in 2009.

“I was terrified to come back to school,” said Rector. “I went in thinking I had no math skills at all. Now after two quarters I’m working on geometry.”

“You can’t fail over there,” said Rector.

“I mean there is so much support. I am amazed at how much Katie knows about everybody, she’s always popping into classes and coming to people telling them what else they need to do to improve their skills.”

Katie Jensen is the Director for Transitional Learning at Whatcom that keeps track of the students involved in the preparation classes.

The program at Whatcom is federally funded so the cost of taking preparation classes is only $25 a quarter, for however many classes you enroll in. The program is not credit based and there is no limit or minimum amount of classes one needs to finish before taking the exam.

“It’s meant to be very accessible to everybody,” said program assistant Tobi Martinez. There are no books required for any of the classes to ensure it is easily affordable to students. “They take the expense away for everybody to get their basic skills down,” Martinez said.

“There’s a multitude of reasons people would be in our classes,” said Martinez. “Some people take it to keep up with their kid’s homework, brush up on education, or gain skills needed for a job.”

There are 523 students involved in the general preparation courses this winter. The number of students that go through the program at Whatcom and succeed at the exam is unknown, however nationwide one out of every 20 highs chool students receives their GED instead of a high school diploma each year.

“What I am more interested in is seeing how many students go on to college,” said Jensen. The fact that the program allows for more students like Rector to become more confident in their skills and successfully transition to college courses, is what the program is most optimistic about.

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