By some estimates, there are 50,000 people in Greenville County who do not have a high school diploma. Some of them dropped out of school and started working, others began raising families, and some came to this country legally but found that the high school education completed in another country wasn’t recognized here.
Whatever the reason for that missing educational credential, it’s something that holds people back. They find that they don’t qualify for jobs, that the skills that once allowed them to work aren’t adequate as the job market has changed, or that they’re stuck in a dead-end job with few options for moving forward.
When you’re barely earning enough to cover your expenses, even when you recognize the need for change, there may not be enough money left over to find a path to improvement. So even though you want to prepare for the GED and take steps toward a better future, money is a barrier that combines with that missing diploma to hold you back.
Five of Greenville’s Rotary clubs saw this need and found a way to assist, joining with the Greenville Literacy Association and Greenville Technical College (GTC) to identify strong candidates for skills-based, hands-on training that could be completed while preparing for the GED and improving basic reading, writing, and math skills. Greenville Literacy tests the individuals, provides case management, and meets their needs at the appropriate level to prepare them for high school completion while improving their literacy. The Rotary clubs provide scholarship money so struggling students can also receive job skills training at the same time.
Greenville Technical College’s Quick Jobs with a Future program gives the students focused, in-demand skills quickly, so that they can begin work or advance as they continue to learn.
Thanks to this partnership, five students were identified for the pilot program, which began earlier this year.
Yelsima, originally from the Dominican Republic, was interested in health care and was matched with the Certified Nursing Assistant program, a three-and-a-half week pathway to basic health care skills. Staying after class to read her textbook and practice her skills while working with a tutor, she successfully completed classroom, lab and clinical components and is now equipped to begin work while she continues to study with Greenville Literacy to improve her English skills and complete GED preparation.
Jermaine was a high school dropout who decided to make a change. Already working as a CNC machine operator, he entered the CNC program and, by using immersive technology software coupled with hands-on machining projects, has now earned the credential to combine with his experience to advance in his field. Highly motivated, he spends two nights a week in CNC training and another two studying for the GED with Greenville Literacy. Thanks to the Rotary funding, financial barriers to success have been removed, and he’s excelling in his educational endeavors.
Magaly came to the U.S. from Bogota, Colombia, bringing a high school education that doesn’t translate into the equivalent in this country. As she prepares for the GED, she’s completing the Medical Interpreter program at GTC. Her goal is to help others like herself who are new to our area, so she studies on Friday nights and all day Saturdays to complete the four levels of training required. Currently at level three, she’s engaged in what she’s learning and thankful for the opportunity to gain job skills that will help her succeed while benefitting others.
Turkessa and Patricia always wanted to be in the health care field, but without a high school education, found themselves shut out of the opportunities. As they work with Greenville Literacy to prepare for the GED, they’re enrolled in the Medical Physician Practice Clerk program at GTC, sitting side-by-side on the front row of the classroom, and working hard to complete the program’s academic and clinical requirements.
These five students, once held back by language, lack of a diploma, and financial barriers, are now moving full steam ahead toward a better life. While they and their families will benefit, the community will benefit as well. Their success is due to a strategic partnership designed to assist those who otherwise would not be able to participate in traditional education and training programs.
Next year, more students will benefit as the number of Rotary clubs involved has grown from five to 11, and the level of funding has increased from $7,500 to $15,000. Partners in this program, combining their efforts and talents, are building skills, removing barriers and providing a better future for motivated students to overcome the obstacles that once held them back.
Steve Hand is the director of Greenville Tech’s Quick Jobs with a Future program.