Free GED classes available in Winston County

Wallace State Adult Education Program GED Instructor Krista Givens teaches students at Meek Baptist Church in Arley two days each week.

ARLEY - The first step toward a successful future is simply getting started.
That is the message Wallace State Community College is wanting people in Winston County who, for whatever reason, were not able to get their high school diploma to know as they offer completely free GED classes in Arley and Double Springs.  Classes for persons 18 and older are held in Arley at Meek Baptist Church on County Road 77 (Helicon Road) Tuesdays and Thursdays and at The Rock Family Worship Center on Highway 278 just east of Double Springs every Wednesday night.
Krista Givens, a retired math teacher who moved to the Arley area from Huntsville, has been teaching GED (general educational diploma) classes in Arley for Wallace State  for over a year now and has been thrilled to help several students achieve their dream of earning a diploma.  She sees a real need for this type of service in the county, a need that is backed up by federal and state data.  
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimate (2018-2022), 80 percent of Winston Countians 25 and older have a high school diploma, leaving 20 percent who do not.  High school graduation rates in the county have fallen at several schools over the past two years, too, according to school report card data from the Alabama State Department of Education.    
Haleyville and Meek both saw significant drops in their graduation rates from 2022 to 2023, with Haleyville’s dropping  from 98 percent in 2022 to 93 percent in 2023, and Meek’s falling from 97 percent in 2022 to 91 percent in 2023.  
Addison High School saw a significant rise in its graduation rate, climbing from 89 percent in 2022 to 96 percent in 2023 to have the best rate in the county. Winston County High School’s rate rose from 82 percent in 2022 to 84 percent in 2023, and Lynn High School’s rate dropped very slightly from 95 percent in 2022 to 94 percent in 2023.
Givens sees a wide range of reasons as to why residents weren’t able to complete their high school diploma. For example, her most recent graduate had dyslexia, a learning disorder.
“He became homeschooled, but felt like he needed to go back and get his official GED and did a great job,”  Givens said.
One of Givens’ current students, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, said she started classes at the encouragement of her brother, who had gone through the class successfully.  She  dropped out of high school due to health reasons.  She had a fear of what people might think of her for dropping out.
“He had been trying to get me to come for months.  I was nervous about running into people I might know, so I kept putting it off.  I signed up the last week he came before he took his test, and I love it,”  she said.
She plans to continue working toward her GED, not just as a sense of personal accomplishment, but as a way to obtain employment.
Feeling intimidated is a common fear among those who want a GED.
“They are scared they can’t do it,”  Givens said.  She also hears a lack of time as a reason people put off getting their GED.
“My answer to them is get started,”  Givens said.
A diploma can be life-changing, Givens said.
“It’s the difference between getting a job and not getting a job,”  Givens said.  “Employers won’t hire you unless you have at least a high school diploma or a GED.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average lifetime earnings of someone who does not have a high school diploma or GED is $973,000.  That amount rises to over $1.3 million for someone who has a high school diploma or GED.
“It’s needed to provide for your family, your kids,”  Givens said.
A general educational diploma (GED) shows that the student who earned it passed four high school equivalency tests - language, math, science and social studies -  demonstrating that he or she has the same knowledge as a traditional high school graduate.
“We test students when they first come in to see where they are.  Based on that, we work on those four subjects,” Givens said.  Individualized plans of instruction are created for each student.
Wallace State provides all the materials  students need for the classes, including computers in the classroom, calculators, a wide array of learning materials and school supplies.  
“All you have to do is show up,”  Givens said.   
GED classes are self-paced, with students progressing based on their schedules and how much time they are able to put into the courses.  Students are able to work in a traditional classroom setting and online.
“A combination of those is usually the best,”  Givens noted.  “Online is great for practice, but I think the class time is key.”  
Givens noted that the quickest she has seen a student come into the program and graduate is one year, with that student coming to class fairly regularly and working hard.
“Longer than a year is more of an average time,”  Givens said.  “We take you where you are and go from there.”
After 40 hours of instruction, students will test again to see how they have progressed.  If students appear ready for the GED test in any of the four subject areas, they will be scheduled to travel to Wallace State  in Hanceville to take the test.  Students do not have to take all of their tests at the same time.
“You may be ready to take your language test within weeks and your math test six months later,”  Givens said.   
Each subject GED test costs $60, but the entire cost is covered by Wallace State, with no expense for students.
“Money is really not an excuse not to come because you don’t need it,”  Givens said.
Wallace State holds a graduation ceremony each May to celebrate everyone who has obtained their GED over the past year.
“They have a guest speaker.  Students get to wear caps and gowns and invite their family and friends.  They do a really nice job,”  Givens said.
Wallace State also offers each GED graduate free tuition for one class at any community college in Alabama.
Givens learned about the need for a teacher through her membership in the Arley Women’s Club.  She had recently retired and was looking for a way to stay busy while helping others, so teaching GED classes was a perfect fit for her.
“It’s a wonderful program.  Wallace State does so much for the community and for people all over Alabama,”  Givens said.
Classes in Arley are available from 8-11:30 a.m. and from 2:30-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.  On Wednesdays, the program is available in Double Springs at The Rock Family Worship Center from 5-8 p.m., with the church providing a meal for students, as well as providing childcare.
“We hope to add more hours in Double Springs based on the need,”  Givens said.
Students can attend at both locations based on whatever fits their schedule.
“We like to provide different options for students,”  Givens said.  
Prospective students are more than welcome to stop by Meek Baptist Tuesdays or Thursdays and meet Givens, talk with her and observe a class.  She can also be contacted by phone or text at (205) 440-2199.  Interested persons can also go online to to learn more.
Classes go year-round.  Students can start any time.
“Give it a try.  You don’t know until you try,”  Givens said.  



See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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