published Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Chattanooga area adults strive for GED, better jobs

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    Skip Eberhardt works on factoring all the numbers between 26 and 50 to determine which are prime and which are composite Monday afternoon. Eberhardt started a GED program at Chattanooga College in the hope of improving the lives of people who are in gangs or have criminal records. In addition to starting the program, Eberhardt is also a student within the program.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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People interested in getting their GED certificate may contact Skip Eberhardt at 704-7181. Teachers and professionals interested in volunteering to teach a class and anyone who can assist with providing transportation to the class also are asked to call.

Skip Eberhardt can help people find a job. The problem is they're not qualified to work.

The 62-year-old former Spencer J. McCallie Homes resident said he received more than 70 calls in less than a month, all from people looking for work, but none of the job seekers had a high school diploma.

To help, Eberhardt solicited help from five retired schoolteachers and professionals to start a GED program this week. Chattanooga College, in Eastgate Town Center, donated its space for the program.

Eberhardt is aiming his program at students who may be more interested in getting technical training instead of college after getting their GED certificate.

Charles Isabell, a retired Hamilton County schoolteacher of more than 20 years, and T.R. Gunn, a radio broadcaster of more than 20 years are among the educators and professionals teaching the class.

Everybody is welcome, said Eberhardt, who is also a student in the class. His goal is to get his GED certificate, continue his education, then teach the GED classes himself.

Nobody associated with the program, including Eberhardt, gets money. Teachers and Eberhardt say they're motivated by a desire to help people like themselves who grew up in low-income neighborhoods.

If students don't have transportation, Eberhardt said he'll pick them up in his van, and he's hoping someone will donate a van to help.

Classes are held four hours a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Teachers meet with students on Friday for tutoring only. Students can take the GED exam when they are academically prepared.

Isabell said he expects most students in the class to be ready in about two months if they attend regularly.

Anthony Wilson is one of more than 20 students enrolled.

"I'm trying to provide for my family. I want to do better, but it's hard for me to maintain without an education," said Wilson, the father of four children age 6 months to 7 years.

Wilson, 27, dropped out of high school in his junior year to work and take care of his then-pregnant girlfriend, whose father put her out when she became pregnant.

Wilson wants to get his GED certificate and become a certified auto mechanic.

LaTisha Freeman also dropped out of school in her junior year. As a teenager, she maintained her household while her mother battled a drinking problem.

Most times, her mother was in jail or away from the home, so Freeman, the oldest of four children, washed clothes, cooked meals and made sure her brother and two sisters were ready for school. Two have graduated from high school and the youngest is in 12th grade this year.

Now at 41, Freeman is in the class to get her own education. She's worked since age 14 and said she can do anything, including lay bricks. She's been a shift manager for McDonald's, an inspector for Koch Food and an assistant to the executive housekeeper for Quality Inn.

But without an education, some employers still offer her minimum wage when she starts a job.

"I feel I'm too qualified to make $7.50 an hour," said Freeman. "You name it, I can do it. I have the skills, but no diploma."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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