Smith works to help adults pass GED
by Celia Shortt
Changing lives one test at a time is the motto by which Shelly Smith operates her Grantville GED classes.
Smith started the classes three years ago as a way to help people better their lives. Since then, more than 80 people have come to her classes, and more than 20 have completed the test and earned their GED.
“I just feel like this is a mission where God has placed me,” said Smith. “I feel like God is telling me to do it. I keep praying. I feel like this is a call, and I keep having doors open. And I keep having people call me and say, ‘Will you help me?’ So, I’m going to help them.”
With the impending change to the GED test in January, those who have started the test but not completed it have until Dec 31 to do so. If they do not, they will forfeit all their scores and have to start over.
Currently, Smith has eight people who are in the process of completing the GED, and at a recent city council meeting, she asked the Grantville City Council for some assistance to fund a career center in Grantville to help them. Her initial proposal given to City Manager Johnny Williams was in the amount of $993 and included equipment and staffing costs. She presented it again at the Oct. 22 meeting.
“I’m willing to work with anybody,” Smith said to the council. “I just want to move forward. We need to move forward to help these people.”
To ensure help for those needing to complete the test by the end of the year, Grantville Mayor Jim Sells provided her with an office space and Wi-Fi at Station 22, where she can hold her Tuesday and Thursday evening classes until the end of the year, and Council Member Johnny Cooks made a motion to award her $400 to buy a computer.
Allison Taylor is the head custodian at White Oak Elementary. She had her first child at a young age and was unable to finish high school.
“I took the test in 2000, and passed everything but math,” she said. “[It] got thrown out with that and did not go forward.”
Four months ago, Taylor decided to take the test again, which is the first step in starting a career she’s thought about for a long time.
“Nursing has been my thing,” said Taylor. “It’s always been on my mind. I got it from my grandmother, who was a nurse. ”
April Bailey is a mother of four and another person who is benefitting from Smith’s classes. Like Taylor, she became a mother at young age and was unable to finish high school. In 2008, she lost her job and stayed home with her kids while her husband worked. Times are more difficult now, and Bailey needs a job.
“I started the process at CEC, but stopped when my mother-in-law passed away,” said Bailey. “She was the one who encouraged me. [Her death]took the enjoyment out of going to class. I really need to focus on getting it done this time.”
“I want all my kids to stay in school,” she added. “I want to be an example for my kids."
Smith’s first step in helping anyone who comes to her for help is to give them a pre-test and determine their weaknesses.
“I look at their lowest score and what they have the least amount of confidence in and go from there,” she said.
Once a student is ready, Smith also helps each of them find a way to pay for the $160 test.
Smith voluntarily operates her classes, and she does so with the support of the Grantville City Council.
"We are fortunate to have Shelly Smith in our community," said Sells. "She is devoted to these students and is a real driving force behind them. She has full support. Our goal is to expand education as much as we can here. While adult literacy, technical and junior college education are available in Coweta County, we want to help facilitate that and take advantage of it in Grantville.
"Education is the key to a more successful life. While we want everyone needing a GED to earn one, our further goal is lifelong learning," he added.
“[The classes] started through the Grantville Recreation Department,” said Smith. “They’ve supported the program, and so has the Grantville Kiwanis Club.”
Smith believes the classes will help the community and the people in Grantville.
“It will not only economically benefit, but it also will raise the educational standards, and it will raise the self-esteem of many of the people here,” she said.
Sells echoes Smith's belief about the GED.
“Obtaining a GED helps individuals obtain better jobs and better pay,” he said. “It is also a confidence builder. Those obtaining the degree have proved they have high school level knowledge of math, English, science, and social studies. Whatever the reason they did not complete high school, the lack of education stigma is now behind them. They can go forward with other schooling and apply for jobs that previously excluded them.”
Smith and others also think these classes can expand into more than just classes.
“Long term, I can envision Grantville having a satellite technical campus, or a two-year undergraduate program, or a career academy,” said Grantville Council Member Selma Coty. “I anticipate Grantville’s population growing, and with growth comes demands for learning institutions.”
Currently, Smith’s classes meet Tuesday and Thursday nights at Station 22 in downtown Grantville from 6:30 to 8:30. She also holds a class at 11 a.m. on Saturdays at the library. If anyone has any questions about attending the classes or taking the GED, call her at 678-793-7574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.