Two juvenile offenders have passed the test to earn their GEDs in the program’s first year at the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center.
In total, 14 individuals have started in the program — with 10 having passed portions of the test — in a program overseen by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“We couldn’t be more proud of those two kids that have gotten their GEDs, and then those 10 that we have that passed some portion of the test, being out in front of the game in terms of returning back and getting themselves on the right track,” said Audrey Armistad, associate superintendent of schools for the department.
Transition to Success, the program working to help youth ages 14 to 24 achieve high school education equivalency, is a collaboration between DJJ and the Georgia Mountains Workforce Development. The two graduates of the program celebrating its first anniversary has created great excitement for those at DJJ, said communications director Jim Shuler.
“For the agency to have these kinds of numbers at an RYDC is pretty significant because you have kids coming and going on a regular basis,” he said.
RYDCs are temporary placement centers for young offenders who have been charged or will be moved to long-term campuses. The program works to continue providing services even after they have left the Gainesville RYDC.
“These kids automatically transition out to Lanier Tech, and they track the kids to ensure they are able to complete the test and then become a part of the workforce investment program,” Armistad said.
The program has a designated classroom and teacher to help students in the program, along with a computer lab and other technology.
Armistad said the program provides a “leg up” for kids trying to leave their delinquency in the past and seek postsecondary education or employment.
“We think that we’re placing these kids in a much better position not to recidivate and come back to us,” Armistad said.
In October, Gainesville RYDC became an approved site for the test.
“The GED test is now all computer-based. There’s not a paper-and-pencil test anymore, so Gainesville is an approved GED-testing service test center,” said Zane Shelfer, director of student support services.
The workforce development approached DJJ with the concept, an initiative that has become a big push for Georgia’s incarcerated population.
At Arrendale State Prison in Alto, female inmates began learning and testing for high school diplomas beginning last month. Gov. Nathan Deal has pushed for greater inmate education programs across the state.
“Our staff as a whole understands that it’s important to the governor and it’s important to the commissioner that we make sure these kids have good opportunities. I’ll tell you the enthusiasm around the program particularly at Gainesville, we couldn’t ask for any better,” Armistad said.
After leaving the RYDC, Shelfer said program participants can receive benefits and support such as technical college tuition assistance, transportation assistance and child care assistance.
“The program doesn’t just stop when the child is released from Gainesville RYDC. ... The child is continuing to receive services even after he’s left,” Shelfer said.