Jackson County Certified Literate Community Program

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It was 11 years in the making, but when Anna finally earned her GED through the Jackson County Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP) in May, she could barely contain her excitement. “The teachers here are amazing, and the program is a huge benefit to people like me,” she says.

Anna never imagined it would take her so long to earn her high school equivalency diploma, but life got in the way. Over the past decade, her time was consumed with serving as caretaker for family members, moving out of state and back again, working full time and, most recently, undergoing back surgery and a lengthy recovery. Getting her GED was always in the back of her mind, so when she heard that Jackson County CLCP was helping pay for practice tests and exams, she knew the timing was right.

“Knowing there was financial help gave me even more reason to do it,” she says.

Jackson County CLCP’s grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation provided financial assistance for students like Anna. “The largest barrier to GED enrollment and graduation for Jackson County residents is the $160 exam fee,” says CLCP Executive Director Lisa Paez. “The expense can keep students from enrolling. Our goal is to pay for part of the exam to allow students to focus more on graduation and less on the expense.”

Many students who drop out of school do so because of learning challenges, according to Paez. “Some have undiagnosed learning disabilities,” she says. “Many had a bad experience in one subject and are convinced they can’t learn it. You take a classroom like ours, where there’s almost one-on-one individualized instruction, and those students realize they can learn.”

Jackson County CLCP partners with Lanier Technical College’s Office of Adult Education to provide adult literacy and GED classes. The program is important, especially when considering that 18% of adults in Jackson County don’t have a high school diploma, according to Paez. “Without one, their potential for earnings is diminished,” she says. “Obtaining their GED enables them to enter post-secondary education, job training or the workforce. Our students start out seeking a diploma, but almost everyone ends up with short-term training or job placement.”

“Getting a high school equivalency diploma is the first step in developing a highly trained workforce in Northeast Georgia,” adds Shannon Cole, dean for Adult Education at Lanier Technical College.

By helping pay for GED exams and practice tests, the Jackson EMC Foundation unites with Jackson County CLCP to benefit the entire community, one student at a time.

“For students who are unemployed or extremely underemployed, it’s been a choice between getting to work, looking for a job, or taking the GED,” says Paez. “With this grant, we’ve been able to tell them: ‘Don’t worry about it. The Foundation has done this for you. All you have to do is study.’”

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