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Access and assistance

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Free and low-cost programs lead residents to succecss

By Tracy Harris

Tucked in the Oldham County Schools Arts Center is a valuable resource for county residents: the Adult Education Center.

The center served over 500 people last year through its adult and community education programs, and director Suzette Ertel hopes those numbers continue to grow.

The department wears a number of hats, Ertel said, from GED preparation to digital photography classes. All adult education classes are free and funded through grants, and community education classes require a minimal fee to pay the instructors.

Funding comes from the Kentucky Adult Education Council, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Oldham County Board of Education.

“We’re busy folks,” Ertel said, but GED instruction is still the main goal. Last year, 73  students of the program earned their GED, over the state-set goal of 67. Those preparation classes have sessions in both Crestwood and La Grange now, offering students easy access to assistance.

The GED courses are open to anyone, but students between the ages of 16 and 19 must be approved by Oldham County School’s student services, who assess the likelihood of the student finishing high school.

“We’re a safety net,” Ertel said. “We don’t want them to drop out, but if they do, we want them to have something.”

The test itself must be taken at another site, typically either in Louisville or Shelbyville, and typically costs around $60. 

Those adults already with a high school diploma or GED and looking to continue their education can enroll in the PASS program, designed to prepare them for college. The class began in August and continue through Oct. 8, and explain financial aid forms, learning styles, time management skills, study skills and more. 

The PASS program will offer a spring session as well, and is open to anyone with a high school diploma or who is working on their GED.

There’s another group of students the center caters to as well: inmates at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex and Roederer Correctional Complex.

“They’re they best students,” Ertel said. “They really want to be there.”

Other inmates help as tutors outside of class meetings, and there is typically a wait list for the classes. 

The center also offers English as a second language classes, which run from August to June. Students take a test when they begin classes with the goal of continually making progress. Students who show proficiency are encouraged to then sign up for GED classes.

Another popular offering are the computer classes, especially the free Computer Basics class, Ertel said. In fact, the September and October meetings filled up so quickly that a third November session was added. 

Ertel said not only is the class free, but it is also longer than many other similar programs. The class is six hours long, spread over two Monday sessions. Classes in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint are also available.

For those looking to learn a new skill or hobby, the enrichment classes can offer an economical option. This fall, the center is offering Spanish classes, DSL digital photography, genealogy, couponing and healthy cooking.

Couponing and healthy cooking are new classes being offered in conjunction with the Oldham County Extension Service. Couponing already has over 40 people enrolled, Ertel said.

Child care professionals can also earn continuing education credit hours through center classes as well. Taught by certified instructor Ann Finney, classes include math games, puppets and more. 

Ertel said the biggest challenge for the program is getting the word out. Even more classes are offered this fall and can be found online at www.oldham.kyschools.us/adulted.