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Thomas: Literacy alliance gave adult education a boost

POSTED: April 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A little less than a year ago, about this time of year, adult education classes at technical colleges across the state were facing a terrible dilemma. Because of political clashes in Atlanta, adult education teachers were to be furloughed for May and June because there was no money designated in the state budget to pay their salaries for those months.

In response to this crisis, the Technical College System of Georgia raised the money for the May shortfall to prevent teacher furloughs. However, state funding for benefits and salaries for full-time adult literacy teachers and staff for June was not available.

The Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy, a United Way partner agency, came to the rescue to salvage adult education services for Hall County.

Not only did the group step forward to fund the benefits and salary for the lead staff in Hall, the Alliance for Literacy provides other instrumental support day in and day out for literacy education from the very youngest to the oldest in Hall County.

According to the 2000 census, Hall has 25,604 citizens older than 25 who have less than a high school diploma. That is 30 percent of the population. That figure does not include the younger population between 16 to 23 years old who have not earned a diploma and have dropped out of high school, a population whose numbers are growing nationally.

Lanier Technical College’s Adult Education Program served 7,202 students last year, awarding 732 GED diplomas. Lanier Technical College’s largest program is the Hall County Adult Education Center in Gainesville, but there are also numerous other educational sites located at the Lanier Career Center, Gainesville Elementary, Gainesville Diversion Center, the Hall County Detention Center, the Hall County Correctional Institute, the Piedmont Hotel and a variety of classes offered at other school and church sites.

Over the last year, the alliance has contributed a large portion of its budget for adult education activities. A few years ago, the alliance met its 10-year goal for meeting the 50 percent mark required by the state to educate its citizens and become a Certified Literate Community Program. This is a noble feat, and this group met its goal ahead of the anticipated time.

In partnership with Lanier Technical College, we have been able to educate Hall County citizens, making Hall County even more attractive to businesses that need an educated and skilled work force from which to draw employees.

Other ways that the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy supports the Hall County Adult Education Program include providing scholarships to students pursuing postsecondary education; recruiting and training volunteers; offering reading instruction to low level readers; giving financial support for a teaching assistant; supporting English classes; supplying space for a family literacy class; furnishing materials and supplies that are needed; and assisting with the continuation of an out-of-school youth program. What a dynamic force this small group of committed citizens is in this community!

The Lanier Technical College Adult Education Program wants to thank the Hall County Alliance for Literacy, whose executive director is Dorothy Shinafelt, for its ongoing support of our program.

Its support has assisted us to keep a steady flow of literacy services available without interruption.

In addition, Hall County is a model in the state and among the seven counties served by Lanier Technical College. This selfless and committed board of directors is an asset to the Hall community.

The Hall County Adult Education Program could not operate without this dedicated group. It is a group that works behind the scenes in Hall County. The time has come to tell their story.

Thank you, Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy, for supporting education in Hall County for all its citizens. Because of your efforts, Hall County is a far more literate community.

Guest columnist Brenda Thomas is director of adult education at Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, 4½ Stallworth St., Gainesville, GA 30518, 770-531-6363.



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