Delgado A-Z: GED

By: Dee Shedrick
Angelina Jolie did it. So did Michael J. Fox, Britney Spears, Chris Rock, Paris Hilton, Mark Wahlberg, Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Garcia. Yes, they all received their General Educational Diploma (GED), instead of a high school diploma. Students have many reasons why they drop out of school: some didn't like it and were bored; some were not committed and didn't see the purpose; some started families and needed to go to work; some had disciplinary problems and were expelled; while others may have had medical or personal issues that were beyond their control. In spite of a student's initial reason for dropping out of high school, they eventually return and most of them acquire a GED. Erin Landry, adult education coordinator and teacher said, "After growing up a little bit, people who quit school generally realize that they need that diploma because it will help them move forward." The Adult Education Program at Delgado Community College helps those returning students obtain their personal educational goals.

Delgado began offering the Adult Education Program when the state approached the school in 2006. The program was previously run by the Orleans Parish School Board and dismantled after Hurricane Katrina. The program has been growing steadily with a projection of 2,200 students by the end of this school year in June of 2012. There are six sessions per year, with at least 30 - 35 sections per session and about 800 students enrolled. The program has sites at Delgado's City Park Campus, in Mid-City, on the West Bank, in Metairie and in Orleans Parish Prison.

Before students enter the program they take a series of tests that determine their level of placement in five areas: literature, writing, math, science and social studies. The classes are actually taught by an instructor and are very interactive. "It's not like some GED programs where students get put on the computer and told, 'here's the book, figure it out,' " said Landry. The course is for six hours each week for six weeks with support services like study halls and tutors so that students can get one-on-one attention and get extra help to prepare them as quickly as possible. After students complete their session they take a practice exam and if their scores are GED ready, they go off to take the actual exam with the state. Tests are administered at Dillard University and Warren Easton High School. For the most part the program is free, except for the cost of a notebook, pens, pencils and the testing fee. It is designed this way for students so that cost is not a barrier.

The majority of the students that enroll in the GED program are in their mid 20s or older, working and/or raising children. They are ready to make a change, and obtaining their GED is the first step to opening up a lot of doors. "The GED doesn't necessarily get you a promotion, but it helps you get into the college so you can study some sort of trade or career path and then hopefully move you toward a better job or promotion in the job you already have," said Landry.

After students receive their certificate, most of them have goals of attending college, and a course called College Career and Success Skills (CCSS) is highly recommended to prep them for the college experience. Of course, Delgado offers the class that helps students develop skills in managing time, improving study habits, using college resources, and setting academic and career goals. Based on a recent four-year study conducted by the College's Institutional Effectiveness office, students who take and pass CCSS succeed in their classes and return to school the next year at a rate higher than the national average for all community college students. The course carries three hours of elective college credit.

A 35-year-old mother of three has just received her GED and is currently taking the CCSS class (she chooses to remain anonymous because she has been working for years in a profession and fears that she will lose her job if they find out that she didn't have a high school diploma). The recent graduate plans to finish college with a Ph.D in psychology. "People call me at all times of the night to talk about different problems … I've answered my phone at 3 a.m. in the morning without telling anyone that I'll call them back, she said." She loves helping people figure out their feelings and helping them resolve their problems. Although she is enjoying her experience and the teachers at Delgado, she believes that it is her determination that has gotten her this far. "I don't feel like receiving my GED is an accomplishment--an accomplishment would be a degree in a field of my choice," she said unflinchingly.

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