Jamie Williams was a credit-and-a-half away from finishing high school when she quit.

“I was right there, and I didn’t do it,” the Seymour resident said. “I didn’t prepare myself. I didn’t take the classes in high school that I should have taken. I should have done more to go on.”

She later went back and earned the credits but couldn’t pass a required test to earn a diploma.

“It has affected me greatly,” she said of not having her high school diploma.

Story continues below gallery

Williams said she inquired about earning an Indiana High School Equivalency Diploma a few times, but she never went through with it.

This year, at age 35 and with a daughter in kindergarten and another in fifth grade, Williams decided to make it happen.

“My daughters are both in school, and there’s no excuse for me not to do it,” she said. “They are happy about it. They want me to go back to school.”

Once she drops her kids off at school, Williams heads to the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour for the High School Equivalency Diploma class, which meets from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The center is an offsite location for McDowell Education Center, based in Columbus.

Tuesday was Williams’ second day in the class.

“They are really nice so far, and they are helping me,” she said. “Right now, they are just testing me to see where I’m at.”

Once she earns her diploma, her goal is to attend college. She said she is excited about the opportunities ahead.

“It’s really great because now I can make my kids’ future better,” she said.

Growing enrollment

In the past few years, the Jackson County Learning Center has seen growth in the number of people enrolled in a high school equivalency program. Total enrollment went from 106 in 2012-13 to 116 in 2013-14.

Adults earned a general educational development certificate at the center until last year, when a new Indiana high school equivalency test, Test Assessing Secondary Completion, was rolled out.

GED Testing Service produced the test in the past, but the new test is based on the completion of a comprehensive test developed by CTB/McGraw-Hill. The state’s decision to change occurred after GED Testing Service opted to go with computer-based testing, making the test more expensive.

Kristin Campbell, adult education teacher with McDowell Education Center at the Jackson County Learning Center, said educators were concerned numbers would go down because of the test change. But that has not been the case.

“We have found that you can pass it. It’s not as difficult as what we expected, and I think people are recognizing that and coming in and trying it,” she said.

The class and materials are free. The only cost is $90 for the exam, and Campbell said assistance is available to help with that expense.

During orientation for the class, students are tested, and that score determines where they begin in learning. Students are given individual plans of what they need to learn and accomplish before they take the exam.

There is a minimum of 12 hours of class time, consisting of one-on-one help and teacher-led instruction.

“Some people come in, and they are not in a hurry, and they want to take their time, and they want to make sure they are prepared (for the exam),” Campbell said. “Some people, especially our younger kids that have already had algebra, they are ready just to test pretty fast, and we move them through as quickly as possible.”

The state exam covers reading, writing, social studies, science and math and takes seven hours to complete.

Seeing success

Seeing someone progress through the program and earn a diploma is rewarding, Campbell said.

“It’s the best part of the job for me,” she said. “It’s what motivates me to keep pushing them to get to the finish line because it will change their life and their family’s life. It’s something that they’ve always wanted to accomplish, and it just opens up doors that were not available to them before.”

There are several other opportunities for adult education at the learning center.

The Indiana Region 9 Workforce Board and WorkOne help people learn technical skills and earn certifications in a variety of fields through the WorkINdiana program.

Campbell said people first have to take a minimum of 12 hours of class time, and then they move on to earn one of more than 30 certifications offered.

Region 9, consisting of Bartholomew, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jennings, Ripley, Dearborn, Jefferson, Switzerland and Ohio counties, has had 157 students receive certification through WorkINdiana since 2012. McDowell, representing Bartholomew, Jackson and Decatur counties, has been credited for 65 students earning certifications since 2012.

Enrollment in Region 9 went from 21 in 2012 to 106 in 2014-15. McDowell is one of three adult education providers in Region 9. There are 12 regions in the state.

Continuing education

Another opportunity is Bridge to College, which is for people who have a high school diploma but have been out of school for a while and want to prepare for college. They work toward the ACCUPLACER, a suite of tests that determines their knowledge in math, reading and writing as they prepare to enroll in college-level courses.

The newest program is the English Language Learners class, which will help people who speak English as a second language learn words in English and do everyday things, such as making phone calls.

Kelly Ertel, adult education teacher with McDowell Education Center at the Jackson County Learning Center, said there are similar classes offered in Seymour through Read Jackson County. But McDowell saw a need for offering classes at the learning center, too.

The class, for ages 16 and up, starts Monday and will go from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday and Wednesday for 10 weeks. After that time, a class will be offered for new people.

Ertel said the class also could help people earn a diploma or certification, which could open up job opportunities.

“It’s just so beneficial for those who need that extra help to get them through everyday life here in the U.S.,” Ertel said.

At a glance

The Jackson County Learning Center, 323 Dupont Drive in Seymour, offers adult education.

To sign up for Indiana High School Equivalency Diploma classes, call 812-519-2923 ext. 330. A voice mail provides all of the registration and orientation information. Orientation is from 9 a.m. to noon every other Friday.

WorkOne Southeast also is housed at the learning center, and a Bridge to College program is offered, too.

For information, visit jclearn.org.

By the numbers

High school equivalency program at the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour

2012-13

Total student enrollment: 106

Number of graduates: 26

Number of students who made significant learning gains: 70

2013-14

Total student enrollment: 116

Number of graduates: 23 (change to new test in January 2014)

Number of students who made significant learning gains: 68

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.