Remarkable things happen every day in adult education. Milwaukeeans, ages 18 to 66, develop and celebrate new skills that lead to a GED (General Education Development) and/or boosted employability. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals without a high school diploma make less than half of the annual earnings of those with a diploma and only about one-third of the annual earnings made by those with associate’s degrees. We witness so many members of the Milwaukee community invest time and effort to make their lives better. Some students venture into the classroom from third-shift jobs; some take two or three Milwaukee County buses; and some run to and from daycare centers around town just for the opportunity to… well, get more opportunity. As the great Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Hope Network lists seven (7) reputable organizations that function as adult education and GED preparatory centers: Adult Learning Center, Journey House, Milwaukee Achiever, New Concept, Next Door Foundation, Social Development Commission, and the YWCA. There is a slight difference between Adult Basic Education and GED prep. Adult Ed. is designed for those students reading below the 9th grade level and helps them gain vocational skills or advance into a GED program. GED studies, on the other hand, take high-school-level readers and prepare them to take and pass the completion tests.
The process of completing a GED is very similar in the above agencies. A prospective student attends an information orientation to enroll and discover the necessary steps to earn a GED in Wisconsin. Then, students take the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) to determine the level of instruction needed. The program delivered is either self-paced, personalized, or small-group. Based on the instructors’ recommendations and post-TABE scores, the faculty delivers GED Ready Tests in the 4 subject groups: math, reading / language arts, science, and social studies. Often, an orientation at the local technical college (MATC) and a one-time career course follow. The final phase of GED credentialing requires the student to register for, and pass, the 4 tests. A total 145 points are required to pass each test through the Department of Public Instruction.
How long will this take? Remember, it took great builders over 20 years to complete the Great Pyramid. You’ll earn a GED in less time! But seriously, the length of the program depends on one’s skills, progress, and determination. Committed students that attend regularly and treat the program like a job tend to finish quickly. It takes longer if life happenings get in the way.
For the past three years, I’ve been an educator at Next Door. My extended teaching career has covered all grade levels. Adults have become my favorite group. They are not as cute as the little ones or as profane as the teenagers, but they are highly motivated. It is a very rewarding profession. I work together with people from difficult backgrounds who didn’t have the opportunity to complete their education.
For over thirty years, Next Door, has been helping adults advance their skill sets. In 1986, the agency saw a need to serve parents through improving their education and, in turn, improving the household. Adult Education soon expanded to help all Milwaukee adults develop the basic skills necessary to function in today’s society and benefit from the completion of secondary school, an enhanced family life, or job training. Today, the needs of the community for quality adult education are stronger than ever. In 2015-16, 152 students, with a wide range of academic skills, attended Next Door’s program.
According to the Department of Education (2016), “It is widely known that the fastest growing jobs in the 21st century will require some level of postsecondary education. So, moving more people through postsecondary programs…is vital to our nation’s future competitiveness, security, and stability.”
It is a common understanding that high school completion is vital to one’s future. Here is a small sample of those who benefitted from high school equivalency. (To keep their identities anonymous, the names have been changed to the last five first ladies):
- Melania is a mother of three and refugee from Iraq who never had a chance to participate in high school. She learned English mostly from her children who attended Milwaukee Public Schools. When the youngest was able to function on his own, Melania enrolled in GED studies. She worked hard and progressed rapidly. As she nears completion, Melania reports that the children are her biggest cheerleaders.
- Michelle faced many challenges on her way to GED. The 31-year-old mother of two held her diploma high when she overcame those hurdles at MATC graduation. Almost from the second she enrolled at Next Door, Michelle experienced issues with transportation, daycare, and work. The student pushed past this and saw a brighter future. Suddenly, the world was within her reach.
- Laura wanted to be a role model for her young children. A positive role model is quite the change from a self-described angry teenager who refused to get out of bed in the morning and retired from school in the 10th grade. But, here she was six years later, dropping the kids off at Grandma’s and committing Monday through Wednesday mornings to her education. The alarm clock was never needed, and the only thing she refused was giving up on her studies.
- Hillary is a new US citizen and a soon-to-be nurse. The long journey to this country began in in 1991 when her family fled a civil war in Myamar and waited patiently in a Thai settlement camp. Until the language barrier was destroyed, Hillary struggled in the GED program. She stayed focused and passed all four tests. The very next week, Hillary was accepted in MATC’s School of Nursing.
- Finally, Barbara survived the streets of Milwaukee, gang banging, and a gunshot to the head. It was these teenage years and recovery from a coma that caused Barbara to “regroup and reinvent.” Brain functions were never fully restored and speech was slow, but in less than a year Barbara elevated her TABE reading score seven grade levels. She went on to earn a High School Equivalency Diploma in sixteen weeks.
The Next Door GED Fast Track and Skill Building Adult Education Program at 2545 N. 29th Street has orientations for new students every Thursday. Our morning class meets Monday – Wednesday, 9 am to noon; afternoons are Monday – Wednesday, 1 pm to 4 pm. For information, call (414) 562-2929, ext. 123.