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Adults Work to Recover from Dropping Out

Adults Work to Recover from Dropping Out photo 4/26/2018 9:25:50 a.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

[Story by Dorothy Fowler - Hobbs News Sun]

One theme that seems to be common among adult students working in the Adult Basic Education program housed at New Mexico Junior College is that they want to be role models for their children. Another is that they regret dropping out of high school before they earned their diplomas.

“I’ve never had a student come into my office and say, ‘I’m so glad I dropped out of school,’” said Director of Adult Basic Education Kathleen Ferrell.

Adult Basic Education courses give students who regret leaving school a second chance to earn what the High School Equilivent Certificate by passing either the General Education Diploma (GED) test or the HiSet test. Once earned, the certificate is approved for employment and college entrance in New Mexico.

The GED and HiSet are two of three tests approved nationally. The third is the TAXC. Each state was allowed to decide which tests to provide to students.

The program’s curriculum schedule is June to July of each academic year. If they complete the program in time, a student can graduate and walk in NMJC’s May commencement. If a student graduates after May, that student has the option to walk at the next year’s commencement.

The program has seen several successful graduates. To date, there are there are 41 graduates set to receive their certificate and can walk in the May 11 commencement. During the 2016-17 year, there were 52 graduates.

The year before, there were 74 graduates.

What those students discover is that passing the tests required to get the diploma is hard.

“In 2014, the official test changed from a 10th grade completers knowledge to 12th grade,” Ferrell said. The current standard is set so that almost 40 percent of current graduating seniors cannot pass the new official test.”

To get students ready to take the test, NMJC offers courses to teach skills specific to language, math and reading. There is no charge for the courses, which are financed through national and state grants to the college. Students in the program are taught by qualified teachers who teach not only globally, but also provide lots of individual help.

Alex Tasy holds a Master’s degree in special education and teaches mathematics in the program.

“I love math,” Tasy said. “And teaching this class has helped me learn even more math and required me to review math I haven’t used for 50 years.”

Tasy has taught adults getting ready for their tests for two years and has watched several of them walk across the stage to get their diplomas at NMJC graduation.

Ferrell said students sometimes believe they will not be able to do the work, particularly the math, “but we are cheerleaders for them, assuring them they can do the work and encouraging them to keep on trying.”

Two students who are presently benefiting from the program are Lori Luna and Tabitha Holder, both enrolled in Tasy’s math class.

Both dropped out of school at about the 11th grade level and regret doing so.

“I made some bad choices when I was a teenager,” Luna said. “I was just 17 and didn’t know as much as I thought I did.”

Luna didn’t drop out of school because she was pregnant, which is the reason given by many females for dropping out.

“I didn’t have my first baby until I was 26,” she said. “Now, I’m raising four kids and a fifth one is on the way. I love being a mom, but it’s time for me to make something of myself as well as being a mom. My hands are full. This is hard, but I want to be a good role model for my kids. I want to get into the nursing program and become a (registered nurse).”

Holder, who works at Great Plains Veterinary Hospital, said “I want to better my education. And I want to become a vet tech. Of course, I’m hoping for a promotion. And I want to be a good role model for my daughter. She’s eight years old and she thinks my going to school is awesome.”

Ferrell said students who have enrolled in the adult education have been as young as 16 and as old as 82.

Tasy said most of his students are in the 20 to 30 age group. “It’s hard for them. They’ve got jobs and children and some are taking care of parents. Life gets in the way and sometimes they have to leave and then start over. But they can do it, and lots of them do.”

Ferrell said students who want more information can call the adult education office at 575-492-2631.

Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at education@ hobbsnews.com.

Photo by Kimberly Ryan: Educator Alex Tasy answers a math question for Lori Luna Wednesday in the Adult Basic Education program housed at New Mexico Junior College.

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