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JCCC Stories

JCAE spells GED® S-U-C-C-E-S-S

September 24, 2016

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week celebrates the courage and conviction of lifelong learning.

Johnson County Community College's Adult Basic Education/GED® Program spells out ways to gain not only academic credentials, but future degrees and knowledge that can launch students into fulfilling careers. This week, programs throughout the country are celebrating National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week to raise public awareness about the need and value of adult education and family literacy.

Fundamentals build foundations

Adult education is much more than basic math, reading, writing and English language proficiency, according to Janice Blansit, program director for Johnson County Adult Education.

"Our goal is not simply to send students off with a high school diploma. Instead, our goal is to prepare adults for personal and workplace success," she said.

To that end, JCCC's program includes instruction in computer skills, soft skills, college and career preparation, and career technical education. Adult education programs such as Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas, migrant family literacy and bridge classes focus on addressing the needs of individuals including those seeking technical job training, migrant families and high school graduates not yet ready to succeed in credit college courses.

"Some people think of adult education students as not as smart, not as motivated, or somehow lacking as compared with traditional high school graduates," Blansit said. 

In reality, 40 percent of the students who graduate high school could not pass today's high school equivalency exam, according to Blansit. JCCC's typical students are highly intelligent and motivated ranging in age from 16 to 70, and many speak a first language other than English.

Vested volunteers

Estimates indicate that Johnson County has more than 16,000 adults who lack a high school credential and nearly 20,000 adults who speak English "less than well." JCAE currently serves about 1,600 adults per year, or about 4.4 percent of the estimated need. During the 2015- 2016 school year, 186 JCAE volunteers contributed nearly 10,000 hours in JCAE classrooms.

"Without our amazing volunteers, our fundamental program design would have to be significantly changed, and we could not serve nearly as many students, nor serve them as well," Blansit said. "The relationships forged between students and volunteers are often the single strongest link to their persistence and their ultimate success." 

S-U-C-C-E-S-S Story

"A good fit in nearly every way" is how JCCC's own Brian Scala, coordinator, Employment Services, describes his early relationship with JCCC. He's a product of his own grit and JCAE.

"While there are many jobs out there where money can be made, success entails much more than just a paycheck," he said. "Attending JCAE was a critical part of my decision-making process. The support and encouragement I got there made a big impact on how I approached the rest of my education."

After obtaining his GED in 2010, Scala went on to complete an associate degree in business administration from JCCC. He then took advantage of the articulation agreement between JCCC and Ottawa University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in human resources, graduating magna cum laude.

Before earning his GED, Scala was a machinist for 10 years and a business owner for four years. When his business closed he was forced to make a choice: go back to the machine shops or get an education and new career. 

"I have found that the hardest thing to do in life is to make a decision. Once you have made a decision, the rest is just a series of steps, and I felt that the whole experience with JCAE and JCCC made those steps a little easier … especially since I worked a job, went to school and had five kids at home."

Scala is currently enrolled in a human resources master's degree program at Ottawa University and will graduate in December.

"I'm finding it very satisfying to come back to JCCC as a more seasoned HR professional, working for the institution where it all started for me," he said.