The 26-year-old Kent resident is one of a

By Julie Pavelich Published:

The 26-year-old Kent resident is one of a record number of people nationwide

who decided to prepare for the test to earn their high school equivalency

diplomas in the past year.

A national report, ``Who Took the GED'' found 5 percent more people _ about

750,000 _ passed the GED test in 1996 than in the previous year because

they wanted to further their education beyond the high school level.

Coordinators of Adult Basic and Literacy Education programs in Portage County

also have seen an increased number of residents, ranging from teenagers

to senior citizens, wanting to take the GED test.

``A lot of people are coming in because they need to pass the GED for jobs,''

said Marilyn Sorrick, coordinator of the Six District Educational Compact's

ABLE program. ``Some are people who had jobs before and wanted to explore

a new career and learn certain skills.''

Sorrick works with Powell and other students on a one-to-one basis during

classes offered throughout the year. While she helps them prepare for math,

English, social studies, science and literature portions of the exam, she

and other trainers also work to build students' self-esteem.

``Most people think the GED program is easy but it is not. It is a seven-

and-a-half-hour test and is pretty stressful,'' Sorrick said. ``It is taken

over two days and includes a 200 word essay.

``We work on communication and writing skills and do all of that on an individual

basis because some people need more work than others,'' she said. ``It is

very challenging and at least as hard as the Ohio Ninth Grade Proficiency

Test.''

Powell agreed preparing for the test can be difficult, especially since

he also works a 40-plus hour week, often working nights.

The father of two children, he started in the Compact's ABLE program in

Kent after he moved to the area from Missouri last year.

``This is important to me because I don't want to have my kids wondering

why I didn't do this,'' Powell said. ``I want to be able to offer my children

something.''

Like most people taking GED classes nationally, Powell said he hopes earning

the high school equivalency diploma will enable him to attend college and

have a career, preferably in photojournalism.

``I have a job, but it is not where I want to be forever,'' said Powell,

who left high school in the 11th grade. ``I succumbed to peer pressure and

... then became a loner. I need to do this, and feel if I can make it in

a concrete jungle then this classroom should be a breeze.

``Working weird hours and taking these classes are sometimes tough, but

this is worth it,'' he said. ``This piece of paper says I exist.''

A 24-year-old Kent man who declined to give his name left high school during

his senior year and began drinking to deal with family problems.

After moving a few times and working in the restaurant business for several

years, he said he is determined to pass the GED test and eventually study

anthropology or archaeology in college.

``I have been in a big rut for the past three years, and I need to get out

of it,'' he said. ``I turned 24 in March and figured I better get on the

ball. ``It's hard,'' he admitted. ``I need to reteach myself to learn this

stuff that I wasn't interested in in the first place, but I am making myself

do it.''

Doris Stull, tutor student services coordinator for the ABLE program at

Maplewood Area Joint Vocational School in Ravenna, said the program, like

that of the Compact's, has seen a steady increase in the number of people,

especially high school dropouts, wanting to take the GED test.

``I think more kids are realizing they do need some sort of a diploma in

order to get a decent job,'' Stull said. ``We also get a lot of people,

though, who have earned their high school diplomas but may have been out

of school a long time or are thinking of changing jobs and want to brush

up on their English or math skills.''

Like the local students, 65 percent of people nationally who took the GED

test last year planned to go to college. Many participants in the local

programs go on to attend Kent State University, the University of Akron

and other area colleges, Sorrick said.

Lynda Best, director of KSU's Adult Services program, said she sees several

students, either who earned their high school diploma or equivalency diploma,

come to college later in life.

The office works with these students to help them adjust to college life

after juggling families and full-time jobs.

``About 20 percent of our undergraduate population is over 25,'' Best said.

``These people are working, are in some kind of a relationship, have kids,

are active in their community and have a life outside of school, but need

to add school as part of that life.

``Our office helps the students who don't have time to come down to KSU

all the time for things ... for them time management is essential,'' she

said. ``Some people may have gotten their GED a few years ago and for others

it was during the 1960s or 1970s. It seems it is major life transitions,

like divorce, job loss or a death in the family, that are bringing adults

back to school.''

While the office doesn't keep track of how many students were admitted to

KSU after passing the GED test, staff members advise potential non-traditional

students of the best educational path to take.

``We do have students enrolled who have earned their GED, but college is

not for everyone, and we may advise some that a two-year course might be

better for them.''

In addition to preparing people for the GED test or to return to college,

the area ABLE programs also offer the English as a Second Language and several

literacy programs.

People interested in any of the programs may call the Compact's ABLE office

at 678-7333 or Maplewood's ABLE office at 296-2892 ext. 203.

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