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  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Pittsburg Adult Education Center helps train for the GED

  • Many of the students attending the Pittsburg Adult Education Center have been out of school and working for years, and have to struggle to carve out the time to come to class.


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  • Many of the students attending the Pittsburg Adult Education Center have been out of school and working for years, and have to struggle to carve out the time to come to class.
    Some didn’t do very well when they were in school.
    Karen Sooter, center director, and her staff of teachers are ready to take them all on.
    “We’re not interested way back when,” Sooter said. “We just want to work with our students where they are now and help them be successful in reaching their educational goals.”
    The center, at 1600 N. Walnut, has a three full-time staff members and four part-time staff.
    “We’re all educators,” Sooter said. “Together we have more than 100 years of adult basic education experience.”
    A main focus of the program is helping students prepare and qualify to take the GED Exam.
    “In 2010 Census, 11 percent of Crawford County residents aged 19 or older did not have a high school diploma or GED,” Sooter said. “With people 60 or older, many probably dropped out of high school to help provide for a family.”
    Many of those people, nearing retirement age or already retired, are probably not too concerned about earning a GED, unless it’s for reasons of personal satisfaction.
    For the young, however, it could be mean the difference of getting a job or being in the ranks of the unemployed.
    “It is increasingly difficult to find a job without a diploma or GED,” Sooter said. “We know from the newspaper that companies in our area are expanding, and we want people to be qualified to get a job.”
    And there’s no better time to start getting qualified than now.
    “Our great hope is that those 16, 17 or 18 are enrolled in high school,” Sooter said. “When students that age come in here, we do advise them to stay in high school because it’s their best option for a broad curriculum and the most comprehensive educational services.”
    But the PAEC does do a good job of preparing students for the GED exam. The GED certificate, issued by the Kansas Board of Regents, not only improves the recipient’s chances of employment, but also allows entry into community colleges.
    “At certain score levels it also allows entry into Regents universities,” Sooter said.
    And that’s an important point, because, for many students, their futures may include more than a GED.
    “From the first day of orientation we begin the process of getting students to think past the point of getting their GED, as important as that is,” Sooter said. “We work with Fort Scott Community College, Labette Community College, we have students go to Pittsburg State University, either directly or in the Qualified Admissions program with FSCC. We also work with Coffeyville Tech at the Columbus campus. Depending on what they’re looking at, Kansas Works provides funding for some students.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She and her staff are now on a campaign to get out the word that the current GED exam will be available until about the second week of December 2013, Sooter said.
    “As of Jan. 2, 2014, the new exam will be used.”
    She explained that the exam is revamped every 10 to 12 years to keep it current with what’s happening in the workplace and society in general.
    “This is not a bad thing, but the changes will be significant, the test will probably require more preparation time and it definitely will cost more,” Sooter said. “The new test will cost $125 per person. The current test costs $85, and we received a Pritchett Trust grant to provide scholarships for about 30 students to cover GED fees.”
    The scholarship will be given on a first-come basis as students qualify to take the GED test.
    Sooter said that it takes around 10 weeks to qualify, or around 120 clock hours in the PAEC program, but this can vary.
    “Everyone comes in with a different set of academic skills, so the first thing we do is an assessment of the students to see what areas they need to work on and how far they need to progress,” Sooter said.
    The new test will have changes in the social studies and science areas requiring a higher apprehension of knowledge, according to Susie Sayler, PAEC instructor.
    “Students will probably need more background information going into this test than before,” Sayler said.
    A big change is that the new exam will be computer-based and require students to have adequate computer skills.
    This could be a problem, even for younger students.
    “We still get a lot of students who are very uncomfortable with computers, except for e-mail and Facebook,” Sayler said.
    “There’s going to be a learning curve all the way around,” Sooter said. “We’ll start incorporating computer skills in July.”
    Anyone interested in learning more about the Pittsburg Adult Education Center and its services may call 235-3188.

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