By Marlana Ward

Each year, determined citizens of Johnson County set out to earn their High School Equivalency Diploma, more commonly known as a GED. For over 30 years, the Johnson County Adult Education Program has offered classes and encouragement to those who decide to improve their situation and take steps toward a better tomorrow. The program has recently relocated and hopes that its new location will provide even more opportunities for more people to make a positive difference in their lives. Though once located at the old Shouns Elementary School building, the program has found a new home on Cold Springs Road next to the Department of Human Services.

“Though Johnson County Adult Education long operated under our Johnson County Public School System, it now operates under Northeast State Community College,” said District I Lead Instructor Karla Prudhomme. “Because Northeast State does not have an actual campus in Johnson County, our program had to find its location. Without the help of Johnson County government and County Mayor Larry Potter, and the Town of Mountain City, our fair county would not have this program that helps to change and transform the lives of so many of our citizens.”

The new location not only serves the school well but also makes it easier for some county citizens to seek information about the program. Obtaining a GED opens many doors for would-be job seekers. “The State of Tennessee has long worked towards creating a skilled workforce who are ‘job ready,’” said Prudhomme. “To achieve this goal of economic viability and stability, much focus has been placed on basic education and skills-training. Without a basic education, either a high school diploma or its equivalent HSE (High School Equivalency), job seekers are extremely limited and fail to meet even the minimum educational requirement for most jobs.” There are currently one hundred students enrolled in the Johnson County Adult Education program. This number includes those who attend classes at the Cold Springs Road location, as well as those enrolled in the classes offered at the Johnson County Jail.

Since the program’s inception, thousands of residents have earned their diploma and have gone on to use it in continuing education and job-seeking. “Going back to school to earn your diploma is life-changing,” Prudhomme added. “Though there are various motivators that prompt adults to return to school to earn their High School Equivalency Diploma, 100 percent of our graduates say that attaining this goal was one of the best and smartest decisions they ever made.” For many of the program’s graduates, education does not stop at the completion of the GED program. “About 50 percent of our graduates go on to earn some type of credential, certification, or high education degree,” Prudhomme said. “Governor Haslam’s commitment to education for all Tennessee citizens is now well-known because of ‘Tennessee Promise’ a program in which all traditional students with a minimum GPA get two years of free college. Many of our younger graduates have been able to take advantage of this excellent program and have earned college degrees or technical school certifications. However, starting this past fall a new program initiated by Governor Haslam, “Tennessee Reconnect” provides the same two years of free college for Tennessee residents over the age of 26. Many of our students 26 or older are already taking advantage of this program, and several of our recent graduates are currently attending both Northeast State Community College and TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology).” Going back to school can seem daunting at first, but Prudhomme explained that continuing education as an adult is very different from what a person experienced in a traditional high school. “One of the most surprising things for our adult students is the realization that Adult Education is not high school and doesn’t operate like k-12 schools. Adults learn differently than children, and it’s not always necessary for our students to spend countless class hours to attain their goal of earning their equivalency diploma. Though not the average, some of our students spend only the minimum 12 hours of class time with us before taking their HiSet Test. Until a student has gone through our orientation class, there is no way of knowing in advance how long it will take a student to earn their equivalency diploma.” The program has had proven success throughout its time in Johnson County. However, a student‘s success depends on their level of commitment and dedication.

“About 50 percent of those who walk through our doors complete our program,” Prudhomme said. “Some do not, for various reasons including transportation, loss of dependable childcare, changes in work schedules, and in some cases, the student lacks the commitment at that time in their lives. Of those who start our program and stick with it, over 80 percent attain their goal and earn their diploma.”

Classes are offered in the mornings and evenings to allow people the chance to learn no matter their time constraints. The Johnson County Adult Education program has day classes Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and night classes Monday and Thursday from 4:30- 7:30 p.m. “We are always willing to help our students in any way we can, even those whose schedules won’t allow them to attend these regularly scheduled classes,” Prudhomme said. To learn more about the program, please contact Prudhomme at the school. “Don’t let fear hold you back, she said. “We are committed to doing everything in our power to help our citizens attain their goal of earning their High School Equivalency Diploma. Please stop in at the classroom, 372 Cold Springs Road, or call (423) 460-3330 today.