70 Local GED graduates celebrate

The crowd at times was reminiscent of a raucous church gathering. Babies cried and toddlers fussed, women muttered affirmations and the crowd clapped its hands in support. But the people gathered at Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Arts Center October 24 weren’t there for a church service—they were there to congratulate over 200 students from Charlottesville, Albemarle and surrounding counties who received their GED this year.
    A group of about 70 GED graduates who showed up for the ceremony dressed in blue caps and gowns sat in the first few rows—several of them told stories about the road to the GED.
One woman dropped out of high school at 15 to support her family. At 63, she received her GED in hopes of becoming a music teacher.
    Another, a 31-year-old woman with three daughters, took her GED class at the Westhaven housing complex—next she’ll move to North Carolina to attend NC State. A woman from the class offered at Friendship Court is headed to Piedmont Virginia Community College to become a nurse.
    Charlottesville schools’ Superintendent Rosa Atkins was the evening’s keynote speaker: “I deeply respect the commitments each of you have made to get your GED,” she said.
    The Charlottesville Adult Learning Program costs about $572,000 per year, with $121,000 in State and $172,000 in federal funding. Carol Coffey, regional assessment specialist for adult education, says that though the number of graduates has about doubled from previous years, Coffey says, “it’s a fraction of the people that need it.”
    Coffey says the commitments can be significant for some people who are struggling to work and take classes. Classes in skills development and GED prep cost $85 (with a $10 discount for city residents). “Although that doesn’t sound like a ton of money, that is prohibitive for folks,” Coffey says.
    Apparently, GED tests aren’t easy. According to the Charlottesville Adult Learning website, “The GED Tests are so demanding that between 25 and 30 percent of graduating seniors cannot earn a passing score.”
    The graduation is a yearly ceremony that spotlights a typically under-recognized group. Coffey says, “Charlottesville just gets so insulated because we have Ph.D.s surrounding us all the time.”

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