Adult education gives some a second chance at getting a diploma

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 23, 2004

Selma-Dallas County Public Library, celebrating its centennial in 2004, is proud of its adult education program, in partnership with Wallace Community College. Since its inception, the program has served 32,696 area citizens. Annual attendance for the last two years has been approximately 2,400.

Director Paula Thompson, on faculty of WCCS, notes that the partnership which goes back many years, continues to flourish because of the quality of the programs offered, the facilities available, the cutting-edge technology and the desire of participants for self-improvement and for lifelong learning. She said, “It is an equal partnership (between the library and WCCS); it is a wonderful marriage.”

Thompson’s office is located at Craig Field, in the same location where the GED test is administered.

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Thompson emphasizes up front that though the GED segment of the program is perhaps the best-known and, over the years, has been at the core of its mission to the community, there are a variety of reasons why people come to the Grace P.

Scrushy Learning Center at the library weekdays and evenings. They come, she said, to gain the knowledge necessary to advance in their job field, to pursue an interest that they’ve never had time to investigate, to refresh skills, to keep their minds alert and their vision expanding.

The adult education program, she said, was previously under the auspices of the public schools, but now is lodged with the state Department of Post-Secondary Education, which she believes provides a better overall platform for the program. There continue to be strong links between the program and the public schools – city and county – she said.

The recently announced “Selma Works” program, she said, has attracted 1,000 applications out of which 100 participants will be selected.

An advantage of the cooperative adult education program, she said, is the open entry/exit policy, which means adult learners of all ages can enter a particular class and leave whenever they want, with no negative consequences.

The courses in the library’s learning center, which are free, are scheduled Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon and Monday and Wednesday afternoon/evening, 4-7 p.m. The only charges are for tests taken such as the GED, and these are nominal.

Instruction is individualized in the group setting and each person works toward his or her own goals with the help of the teacher.

When students begin, they are given assessment tests and a learning plan developed at the outset so that they can measure progress along the way.

Thompson emphasized that there are no grades given. Rather skills are assessed and evaluations conducted en route and at the end of the course of study chosen.

The fields of the GED are math, science, social science, social studies and reading, she said. Classes are deliberately kept small, from 16-20, to maximize teaching effectiveness.

A real plus in having the adult learning center at the library is the availability both of printed and online resources, Thompson said.

Sheronda Sanders, coordinator of information services for the library who is located on the second floor, pointed to the wide range of printed resources on the shelves in her work area, plus the bank of computers with Internet access. Links with the state library provide incredible resources, she said, including practice tests based on official exams such as the ACT, SAT, GED, ASVAB, firefighter, police officer, paramedic, EMT Basic, U.S. citizenship, postal worker, cosmetology, real estate sales agent and broker exams.

Literature provided by the library notes that library patrons can log onto a computer, select and take the practice test, and get immediate scoring and detailed explanations of answers. The testing databases can also be accessed on one’s home computer, using a library card. For further information, call (334) 876-9369 or go to the Web site or call the library (334) 874-1735.