By Kim Walter
The Adult Education Program at Lord Fairfax Community College is prepared to see an increase in participation numbers over the next several months.
The grant-funded program, which started up last October, helps residents of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties become proficient English speakers, pass GED exams and attain citizenship.
Completion of a GED was done in individual school systems in the past, but is now being handled at LFCC.
Amy Judd, the program's manager, said the community college is a natural place for what the program is trying to achieve, as student enrollment and interest continu to increase.
However, she said she expects to see even more students in the program since a major change is coming to the GED exam.
The GED test will change to a new computer-based format at the beginning of 2014. That may surprise testers who are more comfortable with the traditional pencil and paper format, she said.
Additionally, if a person only has passed a few sections of the GED test, those will no longer be valid at the start of next year.
"Basically, people need to either finish up and pass the remaining sections by December, or they need to be prepared for a whole new test and process in January," Judd said.
The testing subject matter will also be updated to include information dealing with "21st century skills," she added.
On Tuesday night, the program celebrated students who passed the GED test and/or gained citizenship. Judd said about 300 residents from the region were recognized, and their ages and background varied greatly.
"It's not just young kids getting their GED anymore," she said. "Our program is also for the foreign-born population who need to learn English for a job, or need remediation for their math skills."
Since opening in October, Judd said a little more than 1,000 people from 38 different countries have come to the program for some kind of help.
In addition to LFCC, the program also works with local Literacy Volunteer groups, school divisions, testing centers and the Virginia Employment Commission.
Because the program is grant funded, results are being closely monitored, Judd added.
"We have one staff member whose sole responsibility is collecting and entering data," she said.
Residents who go through the program have to follow up and report how or if classes, GED completion or remediation helped them get and hold a job, or if they were able to continue on to higher education.
"We're all about success," Judd said.
Out of the Virginia's 23 regions, Judd said the one LFCC works directly with has the highest non-graduating rate for foreign exchange students at 44 percent. However, she added that the statistic isn't one size fits all.
"A lot of these people are wonderful students who work hard ... many come here to improve themselves in the first place," she said. "And you can never assume you know why someone didn't finish school."
For more information about the program and changes to the GED exam, go to www.lfcc.edu/areas-of-study/need-my-ged or call 540-869-0746.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org