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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Pittsburg Adult Education Center promotes lifelong learning

  • There’s more and more to learn, and fewer and fewer job opportunities for those with less education. Staff members at the Pittsburg Adult Education Center are trying to team knowledge and opportunity for their students.

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  • There’s more and more to learn, and fewer and fewer job opportunities for those with less education. Staff members at the Pittsburg Adult Education Center are trying to team knowledge and opportunity for their students.
    Enrollment for the last daytime classes of the current school year is still being accepted from 8 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the center, 1600 N. Walnut. The office will be closed March 19-23 during spring break.
    Morning classes will meet from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and the afternoon class meets from noon to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Classes will start March 26 and end May 10.
    “According to Crawford  County 2010 Census data, 4,700 adults aged 25 and older do not have a high school diploma,” said Karen Sooter, center director.
    She noted that many of those older adults now past their working years.
    “It was more common, even 20 or 30 years ago, for people to drop out of high school to help their family earn a living,” Sooter said. “Those people were able to find employment and raised their families.”
    But, for those at the younger end of the spectrum, including those aged 19 to 24 without high school diplomas who were not included in the Census data, the outlook may not be as bright.
    “We are very concerned about the high numbers of unemployed, and getting a GED can be a difference in getting a job or not getting it,” Sooter said. “Our basic literacy instruction is designed to bring a person’s skills up to about eighth grade level. Our secondary adult education takes that further. We help them get their skills to a level where they can complete the GED.”
    And she’s proud of the success rate that center students and staff have achieved.
    “We have 50 to 60 students a year, and last year 60 percent of our students completed the GED,” Sooter said. “We graduate more GED completers a year than some high schools in Crawford County graduate students.”
    She stressed, however, that the Adult Education Center is not competing with high schools.
    “We do have some 16- and 17-year-olds in our program, but less than one-quarter of them,” Sooter said. “When they come in, we tell them and their families that we recommend they stay in school because schools have broad curriculum offerings, a broader range of services and social opportunities. Generally speaking, high school is where these students need to be, but usually, by the time they come to our door, they have made their choice.”
    Instruction is provided in five areas, including reading, writing, math, science and social sciences.
    “We have individual and group instruction,” Sooter said. “We use a lot of multimedia tools, the Internet and interactive aids to learning. We’re having people work on graphs and grids using the iPad.”
    Page 2 of 3 - She noted that there are misconceptions about adult education and the GED.
    “The GED is a rigorous, 7 1/2 hour examination,” Sooter said. “It includes math up to basic algebra and geometry, and the students need to write an essay and interpret maps.”
    She said that in one study, 40 percent of graduating high school seniors were unable to pass the  GED, and added that the exam will become even more challenging in the future.
    “About every 10 years the GED exam changes, and in January 2014 they will roll out a new GED exam,” Sooter said. “This will be a completely different delivery system, a computer test. It will not be on the Internet, but will be loaded into computers at GED test sites.”
    While the current test is predominately multiple choice, the new design will require that students write extended-response answers in four subject areas.
    “It’s going to be challenging for us to prepare students for this,” Sooter said. “We’ll have to get them prepared to deal with a word-processing program.”
    As proud as they are of their GED completers, that’s not the end of the story.
    “We have been pushed, prodded and encouraged at the federal and state level to prepare our students for the next step, and we have a transition counselor to assist students in moving from GED preparation into post-secondary education or job training or employment,” Sooter said.
    The counselor, Richard Saporito, was administrator at Franklin Tech in Joplin, and has worked with Pittsburg State University and Labette Community College.
    “He can help students research a school or possible career they might be interested in, can set appointments for people at schools and help them get started in the financial aid process,” Sooter said.
    The center has good relations with PSU, LCC, Fort Scott Community College and the Coffeyville Community College Columbus Technical Campus.
    “To attend a Regents University in Kansas, a student must earn a score of 510 on the GED,” Sooter said. “But if you pass the GED you can go to a community college.”
    Student Tyler Kragt, 18, wants to go to college.
    “I’d like to become a translator of Japanese, and probably mix that with business,” he said. “I can tell my progress from the beginning of the program. My math has increased and my writing is getting there. I’m learning every day.”
    He’s also taught his teachers a few things.
    “I’m helping them on working with the iPad,” Kragt said.
    Nicole Wellner, a student at the center since Feb. 13, said that she’s moving along pretty fast. Her goal is to get her GED, then move on to vocational training in welding.
    “My husband is a welder, and I’m such a hands-on person that I think it would be pretty cool to be a welder,” she said. “You can go  pretty much any place and get a job if you’re a certified welder.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Anyone needing additional information about the Pittsburg Adult Education Center may call 620-235-3188.
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