Tech college program marks five years helping adults acquire high school degrees

April 10, 2013

From postcrescent.com: “Technical college marks five years helping adults acquire high school degrees” — APPLETON — The students sat in a room on the second floor of City Center Plaza, completing homework or practice tests to gain a high school degree.

Close by was a whiteboard sporting this quote from C.S. Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

The students were participants in Fox Valley Technical College’s adult basic education program, which opened in downtown Appleton five years ago. It assists about 150 people each year in trying to pass general education development (GED) tests or obtain a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) each year, said instructor Kim Jossart. Eight students graduated last year.

The program serves people of all ages and backgrounds, Jossart said. In addition to guiding adults through subjects like math and science, it provides training on workplace skills, resume-building and technology.

The FVTC program joins forces with the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley, COTS Inc., Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, the Fox Valley Warming Shelter and probation and parole agencies to help Fox Valley residents gain a high school degree.

“It’s kind of a unique program in that it serves a really diverse student body,” Jossart said.

Crystal Smith of Menasha, who plans to study nursing at Rasmussen College, said she drifted from high school because she couldn’t get the help she needed. She started working on her HSED in December and prefers the learning environment in the adult program.

“It’s comfortable, and if I have any questions with my bookwork I can just go up to (Jossart) and she helps me and gets me through,” Smith said. “It’s just a lot more comfortable atmosphere for learning.”

Students work at their own pace, usually one subject at a time. Students also determine their own schedule so they can study around work or family responsibilities.

“The important thing about this place is — because students have had such horrible, horrible experiences in school — it’s not set up to be like a typical classroom,” Jossart said. “It’s more relaxed, because the last thing I want is for those feelings to come back. For them to say, ‘Oh, I can’t come to class anymore because it’s just too school-ish.’”

Dennis James of Appleton, who’s working on his HSED and plans on a career in trucking, decided to move to Wisconsin to get his degree and improve his job prospects. He said working with only one instructor improves the learning environment.

“It’s one-on-one, (Jossart is) working with just me,” James said. “It’s not like a big classroom where she’s working with many different people at one time. Everybody has their own individual thing they’re working on.”

As many as 40 percent of the students in the programs go on to FVTC or other college programs with Jossart’s help, said Colette Busse, associate dean of general studies at the technical college.

“They’ve proven to themselves that they’re successful and can do post-secondary work as well,” Busse said. … “That’s a huge success.”

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