Friday, April 23, 2010

On Track for Record number of Graduates

Pushing for 40

This year, as we celebrate our 25th year of existence, we have even more cause for celebration. We are projecting that 40 individuals will earn their high school credential by the end of our fiscal year.

Forty would be the largest number of graduates in any given year for Academy of Hope.  Approximately 21 adults earn their high school credential each year. Our largest number of graduates was in 1995 when 28 adult learners earned their high school credential.

To understand the significance of this accomplishment, one must first understand what it takes for an adult learner to earn a high school credential and what it takes for a small community based, adult learning center to make a difference:

First, the average academic level of incoming learners is from 4th -6th grade in math and reading. 
To begin preparing for the GED, an individual must have at least an 8th grade academic level.
While adult learners enter AoH programs with a vast amount of knowledge and skills gained through life experiences, low academic levels upon entry and, the amount of time that has passed since many were last in school necessitates that the majority of learners begin their educational experience in pre-GED or basic academic refresher courses. The result is 18 -24 months to earn a high school credential.

Second, the lives of adult learners are complicated. Many of the adult learners who enroll in classes at Academy of Hope are balancing many responsibilities and often face significant life challenges. Most must work to meet financial obligations and the basic needs of their families (food, shelter, and clothing), others have children, are taking care of elderly parents and  are struggling to balance family life with their school and work responsibilities. Still, others face significant personal and financial barriers that make just getting to school a challenge. The result is irregular attendance or a phenomenon we in adult education call stopping out.

It takes approximately 75-100 instructional hours for an individual to achieve academic gains (improved test scores). For adults who stop out because of work or other pressures, reaching the instructional hours needed to improve their academic levels quickly is a significant challenge.

So, why are we projecting 40 graduates now? Beyond the resilience and sheer tenacity of our adult learners, Academy of Hope has a dedicated team of 15 staff and an outstanding volunteer corps of 75-80 teachers working together to provide quality education services to over 300 adults a year. While we have done great work for 25 years, the past three years have been pivotal to our success this year. Staff at Academy of Hope introduced a series of changes that we believe have helped to strengthen our educational and support services. Below are just a few:
  • Individual Advising- each adult learner has an advisor with whom he/she works closely to achieve their personal academic goals. 
  • Documented competencies for every course 
  • New Fast-Track GED program based upon high interest themes 
Finally, Academy of Hope is and has always been a community that supports and nurtures the mind and the spirit of each person who enters our learning community. We celebrate birthdays, rejoice when there are new births, mourn the loss of loved ones and share holidays. We visit our learners when they are ill or in the hospital. We call when it has been way too long since we last saw them. In short, we CARE.

The best thing about Academy of Hope is that we provide an alternative for individuals to obtain a quality education in a small, supportive learning community where, according to Marja Hilfiker and Gayle Boss, founders of Academy of Hope:

“The main subject for everyone, teachers and students alike is not just reading, writing or math, but hope.”

In our opinion, hope combined with sound educational practices are the key ingredients in helping individuals to begin the process of transforming their lives.

We are excited about this accomplishment and will be sharing our progress through regular tweets on twitter, student stories on our blog, video clips of recent graduates and a year book page on our website. Keep following us and help push for 40!

Lecester Johnson (picture far-left, above) is the Executive Director of Academy of Hope

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