A good education is the cornerstone of a healthy and productive society. That good education is the result of many things.
For most, it is the end of 12 to 13 years of schooling. For some there may be a few more years of training or apprenticeship. For others there are several more years of college. And for a few, they tack on even more years to become ministers, scientists, healthcare providers, professors, attorneys, and business leaders.
But there is another segment of all our communities that, in my opinion, are some of our best potential employees. We call them the “drop outs”. We tend to categorize and clump together the drop outs.
Two days a week I teach the High School Equivalency (HSE) class at the Jackson County Learning Center for the McDowell Education Center in Columbus. We used to call the program the GED, but someone decided it needed a new name that better reflected the outcome achieved by the student.
My classes are much like a one-room school house. I have students who are 16 and some who are in their 40s. Their current academic levels range from sixth grade to 12th. Some are in my class to improve their reading and math skills so they can attend some training program. I have a few mothers who want to be able to help their children with their homework and attend class while their children are in school. Most students are unemployed and understand that the lack of an HSE is a primary reason they are turned down for jobs.
But to a student, they all share two things in common. They now realize the value of an education and are willing to work to get one. And it is that insight and effort that impresses me.
A large percentage of my students work as well as attend class. Some have part-time jobs and others have full-time ones. They are employees in factories or stores who have realized that without their HSE they are limited in their advancement opportunities. Many have families.
I also know that my students that graduate from the program will make some of the best employees any employer could want.
They have accepted that they need to go back and finish their education. Vision. They understand what they need to do. A plan. They have figured out what is missing and how to fill it. Execute the plan. They have shown they are willing to put aside their egos and work hard with others like themselves. Teamwork. They figure out a way to juggle and schedule other responsibilities and they show up. Flexibility/adaptation/commitment. They work hard. Discipline. They are determined to succeed. Successful outcome.
Indiana has an excellent agency called Work One with offices in Seymour and Columbus. This office can help many of my students with the temporary resources they need to attend my class or to participate in a training program. By design from the beginning of the Jackson County Learning Center, Work One and the McDowell HSE program are in the same building … sort of a one-stop center for improving one’s life. We work well together to produce successes.
My guess is that we are only touching a very small percentage of folks like my students. But for every one of our successes, I know that our local, state and national economy is better for their effort. And we become a more productive and healthy society because of them.
Bill Bailey is a former member of Seymour city councilman, mayor of Seymour, state representative and former president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. Send comments to editorial@the republic.com.
Bill Bailey is a former member of Seymour city councilman, mayor of Seymour, state representative and former president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. Send comments to email@example.com.