Knowledge is Power: GED Program Provides Pathway to Success

    Posted 03/26/2013

    Benjamin Franklin said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest, but according to a 2011 Gallup poll, 30 percent of students in the United States will drop out of high school.

    Fortunately, the dream of a diploma can be achieved through the General Education Development testing program, developed by the American Council on Education, to award a Certificate of High School Equivalency.

    But taking that first step is at best difficult and often overwhelming for many who may not have attended school for several years.

    AspenPointe’s GED preparation and testing programs offer a second chance to those who want to pursue dreams that can only be achieved through education.

    AspenPointe’s testing program began in the summer of 2007, under the direction of Dr. Rudy Gonzales, who is now Chief Examiner for the program.

    Gonzales spent 30 years as a high school guidance counselor and came to AspenPointe looking for part-time work in his retirement.

    “That first year, we set up a small desk in our fitness room on Saturday mornings to administer tests,” Gonzales said. “Only 17 students earned their diplomas through the program that year.”

    Since those humble beginnings, the program has grown into one of the busiest testing sites in the state, providing state-licensed testing on six sites around the Colorado Springs community.  More than 900 graduates successfully passed the GED curriculum in 2012 alone. 

    “Running a testing facility was all new to me, so those first few years were difficult,” Gonzales said. “But in 2008 we received a grant to develop a GED preparation site, and we were able to build a new facility for both preparation and testing.”

    The GED preparation program is designed to help students achieve the necessary academic skills to pass the GED test. Preparation is available in mathematics, social studies, science and English language reading and writing.

    New students are administered pre-tests to determine areas in which they need to focus.

    “What’s great about our preparation program is that it’s individual-based tutoring,” said Beth Nosker, AspenPointe’s education specialist lead. “Each student in the program can work at his or her own pace.”

    Nosker and AspenPointe’s other three education specialists are all licensed Colorado Department of Education teachers, who can also provide training in small groups or through a computer-based system.

    Taylor Rae
    Taylor Rae recently completed the program and is a living testament to how hard work and determination can overcome obstacles.

    Taylor, now 19, dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to deal with personal problems, but once she had resolved those issues, she felt like she was too far behind to re-join her classmates.

    “I had been in an abusive relationship and I just couldn’t focus on school,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know where to turn, but I knew that I needed to continue my education, so I started looking into GED testing.”

    Taylor discovered AspenPointe through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and enrolled in the GED preparation program.

    “The teachers were so helpful,” Taylor said. “They’re very down to earth and encouraging.”

    Taylor set a goal of completing her GED at the same time her former classmates would be graduating high school, and she did. She credits God with giving her strength and the GED program teachers for giving her the tools to succeed.

    “It’s really a great program,” she said. “If you need help, there are so many options, and the teachers are great. The one-on-one training is really helpful. If you work hard and are determined, you can do it. You just have to try.”

    Now that she’s earned her GED diploma, Taylor is currently taking classes at Colorado Christian University, where she’s taking classes toward a biblical studies certificate.  She also works part-time, and still finds the time to volunteer as a youth leader at her church leading seventh-grade girls.

    “I hope to one day work at a church as a worship leader,” Taylor says, “but I don’t know what the future holds.  I’m waiting for God’s lead.”

    Thomas is also a graduate of the AspenPointe GED program, and while in many ways, his story is quite different from Taylor’s, it started when he dropped out of school during his junior year of high school.
    Thomas, now 34, says he dropped out of school because the school he was attending was infested with gangs and he wasn’t interested in going to another school.

    Over the years, he worked odd jobs and did janitorial work, but three years ago he found himself in trouble with the law due to substance abuse, and was given the choice of spending time in jail or getting treatment for his addiction problems.

    “I enrolled in AspenPointe’s Intensive Outpatient Program,” Thomas said. “During the year I spent in that program, I turned my life around. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future, but I knew that I wanted to better myself.”

    Thomas, who has now been clean and sober for three years, was referred to AspenPointe’s Education Program, and with the help of the teachers in the GED preparation program, began to study for his GED exams.

    “I started out studying for the math test,” Thomas said, “but I got frustrated. Beth (Nosker) had me try the reading and social studies pre-tests, and I blew right through those, so she set me up to take the tests.”
    Thomas passed those tests with ease, and dove right into two others, which he also passed quickly. But that math test wasn’t going away.

    “I spent nearly a year studying for that math test, “Thomas said with a wry smile. “Beth and Bill Tassey (another instructor in the program) were really great about helping me and eventually I felt ready.”

    After getting a great score on the practice test, Thomas decided to schedule his final test. Although harder than he expected, Thomas settled down and passed his final exam. He was officially a graduate.
    Thomas doesn’t know what the future holds, but knows that he wants to continue his education. He’s considering a career in counseling or possibly mortuary science.

    “I’d like to work at a funeral home,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, I’ve known a lot of people who have passed away, and I’m always so impressed with how funeral homes care for grieving families. It’s so hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving, but since I’ve been through it, I know what I would like someone to say to me.”

    Thomas is looking into the mortuary science program at Arapahoe Community College, in Littleton, but if that doesn’t work out, he knows that he wants to help people in some way.

    He credits much of his success to the guidance and help he got from his experience with AspenPointe.

    “If it wasn’t for Bill and Beth, I couldn’t have done it,” Thomas said. “They were genuinely concerned about my well-being and were very encouraging and respectful. I highly recommend the program to anyone who is thinking about getting their GED.”

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