By Carla Kucinski
John H. Moody is on a mission.
In December 2013, he received his GED from Guilford Technical Community College - a dream he’s put off for most of his life. But now that he’s accomplished that goal, he has the confidence and drive to take his education further.
“It’s time for me to finish what I started,” said Moody, 48 of Greensboro.
Moody currently works third shift as a production manager at a textile mill in Pleasant Garden, N.C., but his goal is to receive a college degree in radiography and start classes in the fall at GTCC. He hasn’t been in a classroom in 30 years, not since he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps just shy of his 18th birthday and dropped out of high school. But Moody won’t let that deter him. Now, he says, he’s ready for “a new start.”
“It’s something I know I need to do and want to do,” he said.
To prepare for his first semester, Moody enrolled in Get on Track, a new pilot program at GTCC that helps Adult Education students who earned a GED or Adult High School diploma transition to college. The weeklong program guides students step-by-step through the application process from finding a career path to completing pre-orientation. Get on Track also gives students an opportunity to meet faculty and staff members, learn more about their academic program and tour GTCC’s main campus in Jamestown. In addition, students gain skills in time management, test-taking, studying and computers.
Moody turned to Get on Track to sharpen his test-taking skills and to navigate the enrollment process. And now that he’s completed the program, he’s even more eager to start classes.
“I’m looking forward to actually hitting books,” he says, smiling.
Transformations like Moody’s are the kind of results Get on Track organizers hope for.
“We want to improve access and help students get a good start,” said Kristi Short, who spearheaded the program, with collaboration from various departments across campus. Short is GTCC’s implementation director for Completion by Design, a five-year Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative to increase completion and graduation rates for low-income students under age 26. Get on Track is one way of achieving that goal; it gives students an on–ramp to college and demystifies the college experience, Short says.
“We’re walking them through the process step-by-step to make sure they complete all the steps to enroll and to reduce their anxiety,” Short said.
Once a student is registered, their progress will be tracked throughout the year to help them stay on target and work through any roadblocks they encounter. As an extra incentive, the GTCC Foundation will fund one three-credit course in the fall for each student who completes the Get on Track program.
Transitioning to college can be difficult, particularly for GED and Adult High School graduates, who often have more obstacles to overcome than the average student, says Martha Bergman, dean of adult education at GTCC. Many face financial challenges and do not have transportation to get to campus or a home computer to do school work. But intimidation is the biggest deterrent, Bergman says.
“That’s a really big piece of it,” she says. “I think we lose some students because of the fear factor.”
That fear is rooted in a number of reasons. Typically, GED and Adult High School graduates were unsuccessful in the high school arena, so attending college can be a scary step. Age is also a factor. Some wait years to return to school and then worry they won’t fit in or succeed academically. The Get on Track program aims to reduce those anxieties and remove some of the barriers that prevent students from continuing their education.
“These are the students who are the hardest served; they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to get here,” Bergman said. “Any bridge we can provide for students is going to increase the likelihood that they will enroll and stay in a program.”
One of those students is Jennifer Beavers of High Point. Two years ago, she dropped out of high school when she became pregnant at 16 and put her future on hold to take care of her daughter, Jes’arie. By the time her daughter turned one, Beavers started to rethink her future, and with constant encouragement from her mother, she received her GED from GTCC in November 2013. Achieving that goal empowered her to do more.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” she said.
Today, 18-year-old Beavers plans to study nursing at GTCC and participated in Get on Track to help her through the application process and brush up on her math skills. Beavers wants to be a neonatal nurse, a decision she made after her 9-month-old niece, Kayleigh, died suddenly two years ago. “Each baby I save, I know I’ll be doing right by her,” Beavers said.
Get on Track allowed Beavers to learn more about GTCC’s nursing program and tour its facilities, which further reinforced her career choice. Standing in the middle of one of the simulation labs, Beavers smiled with tears in her eyes as she looked at the infant mannequins around her and began to envision her future. Later on that day, she reflected on the experience.
“I love everything about this place,” Beavers said. “There’s a lot of help here. …
“I’m looking forward to making friends, and I really can’t wait to start the nursing classes. All of the classes are amazing. I want August to get here now.”