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High school Ed. a necessity in Lamar County

All budget cuts aside, Lamar County adult literacy specialist Wanda Easton has ambitious plans for the local GED program. Cut to two days a week last year due to funding concerns, it is now full time again. Easton wants to see it grow even further. ’I have a vision of what we need to make it work,’ said Easton, who has led the local program since 1998 and has worked in adult literacy 18 years. ‘We need four teachers. This is my ideal goal; right now I’m reaching for the stars.’ These include a GED lab tech ‘to fill in the gaps of a student’s foundation so they can prepare for the test and take it,’ she said. ‘The GED is a foundation filler, not a foundation builder.’ She wants a teacher dedicated to special education. The center is not set up to fully meet their needs. ’I won’t turn them away but we’re in a budget crunch and don’t have a lot of resources,’ she said. A reading only teacher could help raise the literacy rate. ’It’s a big issue, going from building the foundation to working on the six thinking skills. Our young people are missing critical thinking skills but their hand-eye coordination is perfect,’ she said. ‘This is because of video games, cell phones and iPods. We have to deal with that and it’s going to take a village’s worth of support.’ Also, ‘When you have a lot of people in the room and someone has reading issues, their needs won’t be met,’ she added. Noting Griffin Technical Institute, which provides the program, can only do so much, Easton called on the community to improve the program. ’If all things worked the way they’re supposed to everyone’s educational needs in Lamar County would be met,’ she said. One way is for people who need their GEDs or to brush up on basic skills to come to the center and commit to taking classes. The more students, the more Griffin Tech will see the need for more teachers and the more likely it will be the state will fund them. ’People come in but don’t follow through on the commitment for a variety of reasons,’ she said. ‘It’s like a revolving door as they get frustrated. Students have a part to play in their own learning but don’t have a realistic view of what it takes when you go back to school.’ Other hindrances can include transportation issues, illness and no baby-sitters, but the one that bothers her most is student apathy. ’They don’t stay,’ she said. ‘There’s also a lack of communication between agencies that can get students into the program. When I had an assistant I could go to meetings and visit agencies. I can’t do as much of that as I once did.’ She calls for employers to require GED or higher education to make a high school education a necessity. There is also a need to battle a high dropout rate that makes her students younger and younger. ’We need to change the way we think and support programs that foster better quality of life. There’s so much adult literacy can do for this county,’ she said. ‘If I don’t get attendance and percentages up, this program will fade away. If a program isn’t fully used, the money will go elsewhere. We can’t waste anything.’

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