Adult Education changes lives

Friday, December 21, 2007
Photo by Karen Hall Sarah Campbell, director of the Adult Learning Center, is Marshall County's 'GED lady.'

"I just love my job," says Sarah Campbell, director of the Marshall County Adult Learning Center.

From her office, at the back of the Spot Lowe Vocational Center, 1771 Jason Maxwell Blvd., Campbell presides over a number of adult education programs.

Best-known is the GED, but classes in English for speakers of other languages, basic computer work, and other skill upgrades are also offered both at the center and in Marshall Country workplaces.

The Board of Education provides the space, but the Adult Learning Center is funded under an agreement with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

"I really believe that education does make a difference," Campbell said.

She pointed out that statistically, workers with their GED earn $7,000 to $8,000 more per year. She said some employers even prefer a candidate with a GED to one with a high school diploma because the GED shows that the person had the desire to improve and the will to persevere.

Make no mistake, the GED, or certificate of General Educational Development, is tough to pass. In Lewisburg, the test is administered once a month at the Tennessee Technology Center. The testing takes 7 1/2 hours of actual work time and demands a thorough mastery of English, social studies, science and math.

The Adult Learning Center holds an annual graduation ceremony for those who obtained their GED the previous year. Invitations are going out now for the next one which is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 27 in the lecture hall at Marshall County High School. The graduates wear caps and gowns, some donated by the community and some borrowed, and it is a very moving occasion.

Sometimes, Campbell said, the person getting their GED is the first one in the family to graduate from anything.

"The education level of the mother is a number one factor in predicting the educational progress of the child," she said.

Country star Gretchen Wilson, who dropped out of school at 15, is studying for her GED because, as she told People magazine, "I don't want to be ignorant in my daughter's eyes."

Campbell even has a grandmother of 70-plus who is working on her GED to encourage her grandchildren to stay in high school.

Campbell, a certified teacher who graduated from MTSU, moved to Marshall County when her husband was transferred here in 1981. At first she was the adult literacy coordinator, but moved to the GED program in 1994.

Now, she laughed, "I'm known as the GED lady."

A lot of her job is counseling, both face to face and over the phone.

"Our goal is to assist anyone and make it happen for them," said Campbell.

She applauds the courage of adults who decide to make a change in their lives and have the determination to carry it through. One man confided to her that he sat in his truck for an hour and a half before he got up the nerve to come in and see her for the first time.

To make a start, call the Adult Education Center and talk to Campbell or her administrative support assistant Phil Davis. If you're planning to get your GED, you must first take the official practice test so that Campbell and her staff can tell what classes you need to take.

Orientation and enrollment usually take place the first week of every month. Classes are scheduled mornings and evenings to accommodate workers on all shifts.