First ever GED/SPOKES graduation held at Opera House
Participants from as far back as 2008 were invited to the first ever GED/SPOKES program graduation last week at the Opera House in Marlinton.
Sarah Riley, Executive Director of High Rocks for Girls, was invited to be graduation speaker for the event and talked about how difficult earning a general education degree can be.
"It's a big deal. It's way harder to pass the GED than it is to graduate from high school. Just in terms of the academics, just in terms of the amount of math you have to know, the level of reading and comprehension that you have to do," said Riley.
Riley talked about what a GED means in todays workforce.
"When somebody applies for a job at the High Rocks, whether that's an internship or they're coming for an AmeriCorps volunteer position or they're applying for a staff position; as somebody that looks at a lot of people's resum�s and makes a lot of decisions on who gets hired for things, I would almost always rather hire a person with a GED than a person with a regular high school education. If you have a GED it means certain things are true about you. It means that you don't give up when things are hard. It means that you have the ability to stay focused. It means you have the ability to overcome the obstacles in your life."
Shawn Cook, SPOKES coordinator from RESA 1 and 4, congratulated the graduates in his opening prayer.
"To our graduates who are here tonight, congratulations, this is your night. You've earned it. We are humbled and honored to share it with you."
Cook also acknowledged the dedication of his staff and his appreciation for their hard work.
"Graduates, there are folks that are with us tonight, sitting next to you, sitting behind you; they pulled you forward, they pushed you, they prodded you, they challenged you, they babysat your kids, they may have given you a ride, whatever they did, they did it so you could have a night like this. I am so tickled to have such a wonderful staff to work with," said Cook.
The Strategic Planning in Occupational Knowledge for Employment and Success program is located at the Snowshoe Career Center and is open to everyone in the community.
"SPOKES is a job readiness program for adults who have been out of the workforce for a while," said Abigail McNeel, Pocahontas County SPOKES instructor. "We do a lot of resum� building and interview skills, we do a lot of mock interviews, we have special speakers that come in, we do a lot of different programs that will develop and enhance the skills that will help get them back in the work force."
Another part of the program is designed to assist people interested in furthering their education.
"If somebody comes in that wants to go to school, we help them. We have a career development counselor, she helps explore different career options with them. Also we meet with folks from New River [Community and Technical College] to help figure out financial aid, different programs they might be eligible for, what they need to do. We walk them through all the steps," said McNeel.
The program is based on what each individual student wants to learn.
"It's really dependent on what the person is interested in. I've had some people come in that really wanted to get their CDLs, so that's what we work on. We have some people that haven't worked in 15 years, so we'll work on developing a portfolio or resum�," said McNeel.
McNeel has been working with SPOKES since 2010 and feels the program has helped its participants.
"We have a pretty good job placement rate. We've also had a couple people go on and develop their own businesses from the SPOKES program. I feel like it's been very successful," she said.
Joseph Nelson is one of those people. Nelson received his GED, developed his business plan and started his own business with help from SPOKES. Nelson opened a Tae Kwon Do dojo in Marlinton and attributes his success to the SPOKES program.
"I've done Tae Kwon Do for many years. I'm from Florida. I got my certification to be an instructor and I came up here. I didn't know a lot of the business side of stuff and the SPOKES program helped me out tremendously," said Nelson. "Without them I would not be teaching right now."
In Nelson's case, SPOKES instructors worked with him on improving his computer skills.
"During SPOKES class they did a lot of computer training for me. Before, I did construction and I pretty much hated computers," laughed Nelson. "They really helped me a lot with that."
McNeel, who organized the graduation, was pleased with the outcome of the inaugural event.
"I am very happy with the turnout. Between the graduates and their families and people from the community who came out for it, I am very happy. This is definitely what I was hoping for," she said.