Last year, three Rockingham residents found enrolling in the College and Career Readiness program at Richmond Community College can mean more than finishing high school, it can mean beginning college. Their skill levels and dedication to reaching their goals earned them admission into the Basic Skills Plus program, which allowed them to enroll in college-level classes free of charge while studying for their GED or Adult High School diploma. The goal of Basic Skills Plus is to increase graduates’ chances of finding employment.
ShawnQwillerie Galbreath said her grandmother is the force behind her returning to the classroom. Her grandmother painted a bleak picture of the future she would face with no high school education and now constantly reminds her of how close she is to her goal of a college degree.
“My instructor, Mr. (Phillip) Covington, recommended me for the program. They were looking for students who came to class regularly, were on time, and did their work. I thought it was a good opportunity, jumped at it, but found things got a little topsy-turvy for a while until I figured out how to balance it all,” said Galbreath.
Covington said Galbreath is an exemplary student in all of her classes and is proud of her accomplishments.
“She is on track to finish her high school diploma program this year and will continue college full-time in the fall,” said Covington.
Students can take 12 semester credit hours at no cost. Galbreath has completed four courses and is currently enrolled in two courses plus her adult high school courses. A group within her church paid her tuition for one course. When she begins the Office Administration program this fall, she will have a semester of study behind her.
“I think anyone can do this if they know they want something out of life. The College Success class you take gives you a good idea of what is expected and how to study. College is a lot different than high school. There are the teachers, the homework, and the classes. Period. The teachers are very serious about their work and expect you to be, too. They want you to do well, and their expectations are high. They’re happy when you succeed,” said Galbreath.
Donald Townsend was about Galbreath’s age when he quit high school and went to work in a furniture factory 30 years ago. He made $1.75 an hour until he learned how to upholster furniture and earned $10 an hour doing piecework. He turned the skill into a career and opened his own business.
“Times changed, people quit having things reupholstered, and now most people buy new furniture. And physically, well, you get to where you cannot continue doing heavy work for a living. I looked at things, realized I wanted to find a new skill with less physical labor involved, and knew I had to get my GED to begin. I never expected to get this far,” said Townsend.
In 2010, he gave himself two years to earn his GED and completed it 16 months later in December. He said it was the best Christmas gift imaginable. He has completed four college classes and is currently enrolled in Database Concepts and Internet/Web Fundamentals. He enrolls full-time this fall in Computer Information Technology.
“I’m doing all of this while still running my business,” said Townsend. “My sons got me into using computers, so now I order my tools and everything online. I realized I either had to step up or be left behind, so here I am. I tell you one thing, I admire anyone working and going to college. I asked my wife, ‘What happened to my down time?’”
He admitted it was hard beginning his GED after being out of school for so long. He liked the additional help and support he received by being in Basic Skills Plus program and took the WorkKeys assessment to earn a Career Readiness Credential, a standardized assessment of skills levels in reading, math, and problem solving.
“Everyone I’ve come in contact with at RCC has been beneficial to me. I’m looking forward to reaching my goals,” said Townsend. “I’d like to give special credit to Ms. Mary Ingram with the Basic Skills Plus program. She was the backbone of my doing this and inspired me to do more. She helped me out a lot.”
Clifton Pearse worked for 20 years in a job that was physically demanding and realized there were no options in changing jobs without first getting his GED.
“You cannot get a decent job without a GED and the Career Readiness Certificate. I’m not talking about a great job, just a decent job. Things have changed so much. My daughter was always preaching to me about getting my GED. I began in 2010 and just finished last December. Basic Skills Plus has meant a great deal to me,” said Pearse.
He said Basic Skills Plus Coordinator Mary Ingram gave him courage, advice, and encouragement. When he got into college classes, he found the same encouragement and motivation from those professors. While in Basic Skills Plus classes, he developed a friendship with Townsend, and they encouraged each other in reaching their goals.
“I passed the Nursing Assistant course, but want to explore the Electrical/Electronics Technology program, too. Getting my GED opened a lot of opportunities for me. I’d tell anyone to take this opportunity and don’t get discouraged if you have setbacks. Work hard and get people to help you. Be open to new ideas. Once I made the first step and realized what I was doing was the right thing, everything else has been good. Just remember, you cannot get a good job without finishing high school or having a GED. I now have options I didn’t have before. When I complete a job application now, I feel people are considering me,” said Pearse.
GED and Adult High School classes are offered free of charge at the James Building in Hamlet, the Honeycutt Center in Laurinburg, and at several locations in Richmond and Scotland counties. Online classes are also available. To enroll, call 410-1771. To explore the Basic Skills Plus program, call Mary Ingram at 410-1786.