WCC urges students to complete GED before new year
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 7, 2013 1:50 AM
Mack Brown pauses during his GED class at Wayne Community College. He is one of many students trying to finish their testing before 2014 changes.
When Mack Brown was growing up, jobs seemed to be more prevalent and there wasn't always a premium placed on having a high school diploma.
He quit high school in 11th grade and got a job where his father worked, he said.
"He said, 'Come to work with me,'" Brown said. "Back then, education wasn't like it is now.
"I went to work with him. When the plant closed, I just moved on to different jobs, did one thing after another."
Life wasn't always easy, though. Brown admitted he struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction for 25 years.
Redemption came when he became a Christian and turned his life around. He got married and had a child.
But about seven years ago, his wife decided she no longer wanted to be married, leaving him and his son behind.
Faced with life as a single dad, another option also presented itself.
"Something just spoke to me one day -- 'Why don't you go back to school, get your education?' I'm thinking, I don't know if I can do that or not. I'm 55 years old," he said. "I said, 'Lord, please don't ask me to go back to school.'"
Around that time, he also wound up unemployed after injuring his shoulder and requiring an operation.
"The doctor said, 'I don't know if you can go back to work or not,'" Brown said, explaining at the time he had a job as a painter. "I painted for about 25 years. I painted this school (Wayne Community College), every one of those buildings."
Since January, Brown has been a student in some of the very classrooms he once painted, enrolled in the GED (General Educational Development) program, which leads to a high school equivalency diploma.
It has not been easy, he admits. Just mention algebra.
"What little bit of hair I have got, I have about pulled out," he says with a laugh.
And yet he made it through and is now taking a geometry course.
"I have high expectations of myself," he said. "I have only missed one day since I have been here."
He even recently took a practice GED test, just to see how he'd do. He passed.
And he intends to keep going, overcoming every hurdle, until he walks across that stage and proves to his son, David, now 13, that he can do it.
"I was telling him the other day about going back to school and getting my diploma," Brown said. "He said, 'You know what, Daddy? I'm going to have the whole neighborhood there when you graduate.'
"I just want to see his eyes light up."
Starting out in the program earlier this year, Brown said he had no idea how hard it would be or how long it would take. All he knew was it was something he needed to do.
Faith helped -- in God, in himself and from his son -- as well as some caring teachers.
"The teachers have been wonderful, to sit down and help you step by step, he said. "I'm going to get it.
"Unless they want to run me off, and I'm going to tell you what, that's going to be hard to do."
Officials at Wayne Community College hope others will also take advantage of the program, especially as changes to the GED requirements and testing are looming.
Come Jan. 1, 2014, everyone taking the GED test, even if they have already taken a portion of it already, will have to start all over under the new guidelines.
The tests are still in development, but the basic changes include a more rigorous and challenging knowledge in four testing areas instead of the current five; will be entirely computerized, requiring at least minimal computer and keyboarding skills; and an increase in the cost of taking the test.
The college has long boasted a strong program, with 321 graduates receiving the GED diploma this past year.
"I think we do have a little higher number this year because people are trying to finish before this deadline," said Lynn Rabhan, assessment, admissions coordinator in the Basic Skills program, who said efforts have also been made to announce the pending changes to previous students.
"We have sent out letters to everyone who ever took the GED with us, any part of it, to warn them that it was going to be changing."
Students who have already completed portions of the program can come back and finish it, even if they started it elsewhere.
With just six months remaining to accomplish that, though, it would be wise to start now.
"The GED test is a difficult test," Mrs. Rabhan explained. "It's going to be much more difficult in January."
Students aren't expected to just jump right into taking the test, though, said Karen Burnette, ESL/lab coordinator in Basic Skills. She explained the process also includes an assessment, orientation and placement tests to determine where they can start and how much they will need to do.
GED tests are scheduled once a month at the college. Students can test in all segments at once or take each component separately, the women said.
Upcoming orientation and placement sessions at the college are planned for July 29-31, Aug. 5-8, Sept. 9-12 and 16-19. Most are held Monday through Thursday and students must attend all four days to be eligible to enroll.
For more information on the upcoming changes, call Ms. Rabhan at 919-739-6917 or Ms. Burnette at 919-739-6906.