For those without a high school diploma, the GED preparation classes are the first step to a better life and an increased income.

The Adult Education program at Spoon River College offers free GED prep classes to students of all ages who live in the college’s district, but they have also partnered with Career Link 15 to offer the Out-of-School Youth program. It specifically targets those aged 17-24 who reside in Fulton and Mason counties and meet the criteria for enrollment.

Funded by Career Link, the program offers students financial incentives for reaching various academic benchmarks, attending career fairs and resume and work skills readiness workshops, and for passing the GED practice tests and the final exam. In addition they offer financial assistance to GED completers who continue with transfer classes or a career certificate program.

“We are fortunate to be able to offer job skills training, work experience and assistance with tuition, books and fees. It wouldn’t be possible without the support that we get from Career Link,” said Melissa Koke, adult education advisor at Spoon River College. “We have also partnered with Goodwill Industries and we have monthly meetings to check in with students. They offer financial incentives to students as well.”

Jonathon Starnes of Farmington and Damion Cooley of Rockford both took advantage of the Out-of-School Youth program, passed their GED exam, and are now enrolled in the diesel and power systems technology program at Spoon River College.

Starnes attended grade school before being homeschooled during his middle school years—he jokes that he avoided all of that middle school drama—and then enrolled in the GED program.

“I learned more than schoolwork in this program. I learned how to write a resume and interview for a job, plus I received information about career training and employment options,” said Starnes. “I was in a great learning environment that was flexible and offered lots of support.”

Cooley, originally from Rockford, quit attending high school when his mother suffered a serious health issue. He agrees with Starnes. “I was referred to the Spoon River College GED program by a friend who said it was good. He was right, and I wouldn’t have my high school equivalency or be in the diesel program now if it wasn’t for this program.”

Koke, who describes her advising position as “helping people discover their true potential,” is proud of the effort Cooley and Starnes put forth. “Jonathan and Damion were hard workers and they did a great job transitioning from the GED classroom into the diesel technology program. It is amazing to watch students transform through learning and growing.”

In addition to Career Link 15 and Goodwill Industries, Inc., the adult education program at Spoon River College are funded through a number of other sources including Dollar General Corporation, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Secretary of State’s Adult Volunteer Literacy Program, and Western Illinois Works, Inc.

Registration is open now for the next session of free GED preparation classes that begins Monday, October 19. Both morning and evening classes are offered in Canton, Havana, Macomb, and Rushville. Call (309) 649-6278 to make an appointment or for more information.

For more information about the Career Link Out-of School Youth program, call (309) 649-6229.

Building a Better Life

Jonathon Starnes and Damion Cooley