Education opportunities abound in Selma

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2004

For some, September means going back to school. For others it means beginning or ending a college or postgraduate degree program.

Then there are those that never felt the sense of accomplishment getting a diploma receives.

For these, there are many adult basic education opportunities available that come in a variety of approaches

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and settings.

Paula Thompson, who has just completed her first year as Wallace Community College-Selma Adult Education Program director, is involved with a number of programs providing opportunities through outlets such as WCCS,

the city and county school systems, the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, Careerlink and the Edmundite Missions.

“We try to be accessible with our programs,” Thompson said.

GED programs are offered in Chilton, Lowndes and Perry counties through the Wallace Community College-Selma Adult Education Program. Also there is an online GED program and a tutoring by telephone program.

Thompson said that many of the adults in Dallas County have not earned a high school diploma.

However, Thompson said this has been the best year ever for GED completions. According to Thompson, 550 students pursued a GED credential through the Wallace Community College-Selma Adult Education Program and 112 attained it.

Selma and Dallas County compete with many other communities for new industry, she said.

She added that an infrastructure to ensure a workforce that is prepared to work is critical to the process.

“Even those who have a high school diploma may have been out of school for several years and are ready to enter the workforce or to move up,” she said. “They may need to refresh their basic skills in order to make the move they want to make. And the teachers and programs to make that possible are in place.”

Those who want it can achieve a GED, she said. They simply have to move forward.

“The governor was just here for an economic summit and the gist of what he said about employment was that it was time to stop talking about

it and appointing committees and to go forward with action,” she said.

“I’m pleased to say that we now have two straight weekends of administration of the GED test in our office here at Craig Field, and in each case we have the maximum number taking the test – 20. What I see happening is that with new employers coming to the area, people without a high school diploma or who need refreshing are realizing that the first thing they will be asked when they go for the interview is whether or not they have a high school diploma and whether or not they have the basic educational skills required to be in the work force. So they are getting involved in GED and other programs that give them the skills they need.

“In my opinion a number of the jobs that will be filled in the companies coming to the area will be from the ranks of those already working. That will leave job openings for others who are not currently in the work force,” she said.

A unique part of the WCCS adult basic education network is the Even Start program at Payne Elementary School. The program is funded through a federal grant administered by the school system.

Thompson described it as a family literacy program that meets in classrooms and runs during the same hours and on the same calendar as the city schools. There is also a six-week summer session.

“The Even Start Family Literacy Program is intended to improve the educational opportunities of low-income families by integrating early childhood education, adult basic education and GED preparation, and parenting education,” she said.

“The program has had as many as 14 adults and 20 children, 7-years-old and under. Enrollment is still open,” she said. “The program has four components – interactive literacy activities between parents and children; training for parents regarding how to be the primary teacher for their children and full partners in the education of their children; parent literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency; and age-appropriate education to prepare children for success ion school and life experiences.”

The program director is Daisy Bell, who is responsible for teaching parenting skills and interactive literacy

activities between parents and children.

The WCC-Selma Adult Education Program provides the adult education instructor, Harriett King. Paraprofessionals lead two classes for the children, one for bed babies and creepers and the other for toddlers and preschoolers.

For information on all programs, call (334) 876-9369.