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WKCTC center shines light on success story

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

One regional testing center continues to embrace an individualized focus on preparation for the new, more rigorous GED test.

Samantha Williams, director of the West Kentucky Community & Technical College adult learning centers, said the facility provides in-person and long distance-learning resources including study guides, tutoring, summer boot camps and night classes for the General Educational Development test at no cost. The WKCTC Assessment Centers serve Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Crittendon, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall and McCracken counties.

"We work to build individual learning plans and focus on what subject students don't know compared to areas they have previously mastered," she said. "We know how valuable everyone's time is these days."

Of Kentuckians who have completed all four modules, 86 percent have passed the test, according to Missy Brownson, senior associate of communications and outreach at the Council on Postsecondary Education. Williams said the local center has a 95 percent pass rate for test sections for first time test takers.

She said the benefits of the new GED format are based on students focusing on one subject area at a time. The new test, which was rolled out the first of this year, includes more problem solving and critical thinking style questions. Williams said this personalized approach is personified in the story of the first student to pass the new GED test.

Chester Riley, 27, of Mayfield has the distinction of being the first to pass the new GED test from both the WKCTC Adult Learning Center, which provides instruction and test preparation for students, and the WKCTC Assessment Center, the testing center.

He took the first reasoning through language arts and social studies sections in February and the math and applied science sections in March. Riley, who began studying last October through primarily distance-learning courses, passed each component of the GED the first time he attempted it.

"I think the staff in the Adult Learning Center were even more excited than I was (when he passed)," he said. "They broke down the information so it was easier to understand."

Riley's path toward an education was fraught with bad decisions, trouble with the law and drug addiction. He entered the drug rehabilitation program at Centerpoint Recovery Center in Paducah, completed the program in March and immediately began leading classes for others in the facility.

Following success and recovery, he made the decision to obtain an education and was referred to the WKCTC facility by Centerpoint, which paid his GED testing fees. He cites his two biggest supporters in life as his mother and faculty and staff members at the Adult Learning Center.

"No matter what your situation in life, they don't judge you for the mistakes you've made," he said. "They welcome you and want to see you better yourself and work with you to do that."

He will begin at WKCTC this fall and then plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology. Riles hopes to eventually become a certified drug and alcohol counselor.

"Changing lives is what we are all about, opening doors to a career or coming back to school to start a new career," Williams said. "It's a really special thing."

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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