Name: Janit Maguire and her husband, Tom
Program: Lowcountry Presbyterian Church GED Program
Involved for: Two years
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Position: Janit is the GED program director. Tom helps her with administrative tasks.
Launching a GED program. Last year, Lowcountry Presbyterian Church was approached by First Presbyterian Church from Hilton Head Island, which already had a GED program, and they received some kind of grant. I don't know where it was from, but they came to our church and asked if we wanted to start a program. And they gave us some startup funds as a donation to get us going. It went through our missions committee so we decided to take it on as a project. We had two camps last year -- one in April and one in October. They were three weeks long. We had daily three-hour classes from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Big changes. We taught math and English last year because if (the students) understood and had reading and writing skills that were sufficient, they could pass the science and social studies because that was basically all reading comprehension. But now, the test has changed. It hadn't been changed since World War II. They just changed it, and it's much harder. It's more like college level. The new test is all on computer. No paper and pencil anymore, so we have to add a class for computer skills to make sure that everybody has the keyboarding skills and the navigation skills to get through the test. So we pretest applicants to make sure they're a minimum of a ninth-grade reading and math level. And the new test is going to test them in math, language arts, science and social studies. Now, the science and social studies is truly content-based, and they have to know the material. We've had 13 students who took the exam, and all of them passed. A couple of them had to take parts of it more than once, but they all passed. ... This year we're budgeting for 12 students for our camp. It starts Sept. 29, and it will run four weeks. We had to add a week to get in all the other subjects.
An exciting journey. It's thrilling for all of us to watch the students go through this process and pass the exam. Some of them suffer from low self-esteem, and reaching this as a goal helps them feel much better about themselves. They work so hard and are very appreciative. And we do have a lot of laughs because, although it's important to keep a strong focus on the learning, we realize that the students are all adults and we try to add some levity to the process so it's not so dry, especially math. Math is dry. But many of our tutors have a very good sense of humor. And working with the volunteers -- they are so generous with their time and talents. It is such a pleasure.
Get out there and help. There's so much help that people need. My husband and I volunteer for Meals on Wheels, The Literacy Center, the Lions Club, and it's just so rewarding. So I hope that people realize that it is that rewarding. ... I strongly urge people to try volunteering. We have so many blessings in our life. It feels right to do something for other people when we've had such a wonderful life up until now. And to be able to retire and enjoy it, it's just a gift.
Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.