WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Adult learners are one step closer to getting their GED thanks to courses offered at Region 9 in Wichita Falls.
One of those students in 31-year-old father, Clarence Merriweather.
At 16-years-old Merriweather dropped out of high school to get a full-time job because he had his first child on the way.
It's a decision he said he thought was the right one at the time, but today he is getting a second chance to continue his education.
"When I first got here I wasn't very confident because it had been a while since I was doing this type of work. But over time with the (kindness) of the teachers who put time into me and actually wanted me to get it, I developed a lot of confidence and knew that I could do it," he said.
Merriweather is one of around 500 students currently enrolled in adult education courses at Region 9. Octaviano Garza, Coordinator for the Adult Education and Literacy programs says by the end of the academic year they expect to have 800 students.
"It truly changes lives. When somebody can't get a job because they can't fill out the square that says they have a high school diploma or they can't get a promotion because they don't have a particular certificate that says they're certified in that area, it really stagnates their growth," Garza said.
50-percent of students move on to higher education or get better jobs following graduation from these programs.
Garza said that percentage may seem low, but the 50-percent that does not graduate this year usually come back to finish.
"With my kids, I'm a big person of practice what you preach. If I tell them how important school is they're eventually going to ask me, well dad did you finish school? So, I wanted to be the example to show them that regardless education is important, knowledge is power," Merriweather said.
Teachers who get to know these adult learners say programs like these are what give these students hope for a brighter future.
"We see people that really blossom. They understand that now they can do it and that's the most wonderful thing of all; to see that light go on and realize, yes I can do this now," teacher, Conni Marshall said.
Garza said there are typically 20 classes going on at a time in the adult education program. Those include English as a Second Language, High School
Equivalence Classes, and Career Pathways.
All courses are provided to students free of charge. Region 9 serves 11 counties in our area.
For a closer look at programs offered or to see how you can sign up click here.
Samantha Forester, Newschannel 6