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GED program offers free classes
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Destiny Kelly, 17, Savannah, works on geometry problems during class through the GED program offered at the Richmond Hill Public Library. Kelly plans to take the GED test in September. - photo by Photo provided.

Bryan County offers three opportunities for community members to receive their GED through free classes offered at the Pembroke and Richmond Hill Public Libraries, as well as the Goodwill in Richmond Hill. Instructor Rick Smith said these classes give the community the education and credentials needed to find college or career opportunities.
“This is about education and opportunity. Intelligence and education have very little to do with each other, but education and opportunity have everything to do with each other,” said Smith. “If you don’t have the credentials, you won’t have the opportunities.”
In Richmond Hill, free GED classes are offered Monday through Thursday from 1-4 p.m., at the public library or 5-8 p.m., Monday through Wednesday at Goodwill. The next term begins Aug. 18, but registration is open every Wednesday.
“Every Wednesday, I open the registration up,” Smith said. “They do paperwork and some testing to find out where they are and where they need to be. I have people in the program who are just starting and people who are ready to get their GED.”
For some the cost of tests can be the biggest obstacle for obtaining their GED. This program, part of the Adult Education Department at Savannah Technical College, wants to change that. The practice tests, which help people discover whether they are ready to take the GED test or need more work, are $6 per test for a total of $24 for each subject.
“We would like to give away one practice test for free,” said Dean Brent Stubbs of the Adult Education Department of Savannah Technical College. “If someone isn’t sure if they are ready to take the math portion of the GED test, they can take the practice test for free. We want to offer a free practice test to the first 10 students who join the program.”
Stubbs explained that the program is free and if students follow the curriculum, scholarships are available to cover the cost of the GED test. He said he doesn’t want people in the community to get discouraged, thinking they will go take the test when perhaps they may not be ready.
“That’s a lot of money and time to waste to go take the test and not be able to pass,” Stubbs said. “That can be very discouraging. We have the curriculum and the resources, the classes are free and you can enroll every week. There’s no reason why you don’t go spend the time in class to make sure you’re ready.”
Stubbs said even if a student doesn’t want to wait until they can get a scholarship through the program, by attending the classes the student can go into the GED test more confident, knowing they are ready for the test questions.
“I want to make sure no one in Bryan County waste their time and money only to get discouraged when we have free classes and a dedicated and professional instructor who goes the extra mile available to them,” Stubbs said.
According to Smith, 20 percent of people in Bryan County who are 25 years-old or older do not have a GED or high school diploma.
“I always tell my students they are the 5 percent that come in seeking the education they need,” said Smith, who’s been teaching the program for the last eight years. During a literacy course to earn his master’s degree, Smith realized he was like most of his students.
“I saw there are so many folks who fall through the cracks, for one reason or another,” Smith said, who has dyslexia and struggled in school during the 50s and 60s. “It amazes me sometimes how intelligent some of these folks are who have left school for whatever reason. I felt like this program is a place for a second chance, for a restart in education. Just because you left however many years ago doesn’t mean you are done.”
However, some students in the program did not leave school, instead they have been homeschooled and obtaining their GED through this program is their best option. For Destiny Kelly, of Savannah, that’s exactly the case.
Kelly, 17, drives to Richmond Hill to attend the GED classes. She has finished language, science and social studies – passing the practice tests. She is currently working on different types of math such as geometry and should be able to take the GED test in September.
“Because I’m not 18 yet, I can’t just go take the GED test,” Kelly said. “I have to take the classes. They’ve helped a lot and {Smith} is a good teacher.”
Kelly, who is already thinking about going to college, said her 15-year-old sister plans to begin classes once she turn 16.
“I was kind of nervous to be in the program at first, but I saw that {Smith} is really nice and friendly and really good at what he does,” Kelly said, who explained she’s good at language but science is her favorite subject. “I’m ready to be done, but I’m glad that I joined the program.”
Smith explained students should expect a minimum of three months of classes in the program, but it really depends on where the student is at in their education.
“People should come into the program saying, ‘I can give three months to this,’” Smith said. “I try very vigorously to work in transition with students – once they get the GED, I try to get help them get into Savannah Tech, get into their credit programs or their certificate programs.”
Smith said the classes are not like classes a traditional school. Eighty percent of the class time is spent one-on-one with Smith or learning in small groups. Homework is also less traditional. For example, Smith may ask students to find and watch a Youtube video on the War of 1812 as history homework or watch the local news and tell him about a story that interested them.
“I try to make it as much unlike school as possible,” Smith said. “It’s all about education; it’s not about school. We don’t look like a school house; we’re in the library. So many people are just afraid or think it’s going to be like school was, but they just need to come in and talk to me about the program.”
The teaching methods are also very personal. Smith said not everyone learns the same way, and he tries to accommodate that.
“If I’m teaching you fractions and you aren’t getting it the way I’m doing it, let’s do it a different way,” Smith said. “There are truly bright people who can contribute to society, but they don’t have the credentials to do it. We have to unstick them. Life deals everyone a different hand, and you’ve got to play it. They are so many people who have so much to give, but they need the credentials to do it – to get on with what they are meant to do.”
For more information on the GED program, visit

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