ROCKLAND, Maine — Everyone sitting in the GED and adult high school diploma programs in Rockland has a different story — a different reason for leaving high school early and a different reason for coming back.
Some of them now have children of their own and couldn’t help them with their homework. Some found the perfect job, but weren’t qualified because they didn’t finish high school.
“Even McDonald’s and Burger King ask for a GED or high school diploma,” said GED preparatory teacher Beth Gifford.
Earlier this month Regional School Unit 13 graduated 25 adult students who all earned either their GED or high school diploma. Some of those students have already been accepted to college or have gotten jobs.
The program is completely free and volunteer-run.
For people who left high school with only a few credits to go, the adult ed program allows them to take their remaining high school classes at night at Rockland District High School. These courses take three hours per week for 15 weeks. For people who didn’t get as far in high school, the adult ed program helps them get their GED.
Students are assessed by trained volunteers in the learning center at the McLain School on Lincoln Street. There are five areas of study, including math, English and social studies. To get a GED, a person must pass a test in each subject area. People who are already knowledgeable in some areas can take those tests and study for the others. According to Gifford, the adult students don’t have to do it all at once. If he or she wanted to, a student could study for one test at a time. Because of this, the time it takes each person to earn a GED varies.
“It’s an open-ended thing. It depends where their skills are now. If you went through April your senior year of high school, it won’t take you more than a few weeks,” Gifford said. “The ones who went through eighth grade, started their freshman year and didn’t make it and are 45 and haven’t done anything since — those people should plan to be here a while.”
From the beginning of the GED and high school diploma courses, volunteers try to get the students into a bigger-picture mindset. This, Gifford said, is why so many of this year’s graduates already have offers from colleges and employers.
“We get them in that mindset before they start,” she said. “As we work on the GED we also work on what career they are looking at and what training it will take them to get there. We ask, what do you want to do? Do you want to be a nurse? A commercial driver? Do you want to be a physicist? In their minds they often have things in their head they didn’t think were possible. We try to show them they are possible.”
The learning center is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. People interested in getting their GED or high school diploma should walk in or call 594-5154.
Anyone who would like to volunteer to tutor GED students also may call 594-5154.
RSU 13’s adult ed program also offers Coast Guard Captain’s License, Computers for the Very Beginner, Mixed Media Painting and Office Skills courses. Most are free or cost about $25. For more information, visit http://rsu13.maineadulted.org.