GED learners are 'not giving up'

GED instructor Tom Evans sits with learners Margaret Wells, center, and Joyce Feaganes.

Joyce Feaganes and Margaret Wells are out to prove one thing — no matter how old you are, you can still get an education.

Through Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education (TJACE) classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College, both Wells, 65, and Feaganes, 59, are working toward earning their GED.

Approximately 3,000 adults in Greene County do not currently have a high school diploma, according to Director of TJACE at PVCC Carol Coffey. While Greene County offers free GED classes, enrollment is remarkably low, sitting around two to five students at any given time.

However, GED instructor Tom Evans said lower enrollment numbers have allowed more flexible instruction in Greene.

“We have small enough numbers that we can really tailor our instruction to our students,” he said. “For instance, if Margaret’s coming in for Thursday math and she’s taking a test in language arts on Friday, we’ll probably work on language arts the day before her test because we want to do what’s best for her success.”

TJACE is a regional program serving the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson, and the city of Charlottesville. Coffey and Evans said before changes were made to the GED test in 2014, the region averaged 200 graduates per year. Now, the region sees approximately 25 graduates annually.

“The rigor of the current GED is high. The GED is a robust credential, and it’s OK to come and get assistance with it,” Coffey said. “We’ve been very successful, particularly with people who have been out of school for a few years. We know there are a great number of people in the community that could really benefit from it.”

For Wells, finding herself pregnant at 16 and getting a job left her unable to finish high school, but she now says she’s “not giving up.”

“I made up in my mind that I’m going to come back and I said I don’t care how long it takes me. I don’t know (when I’ll finish), but I’m just going to stay until I’m done. You’ve got to really want it,” she said.

Feaganes agreed.

“I’m not giving up. I want (my children and grandchildren) to see me walk across the stage. You’ve got to keep thinking in your mind that nobody is going to give it to you. You’ve got to come to class, listen and do your homework. The help is here,” Feaganes said.

Wells and Feaganes have been utilizing the free GED classes since 2013 and 2015, respectively.

“They are remarkable with their persistence. It’s not uncommon that we have folks come to us and say it’s not really about another job, it’s just personal,” Coffey said. “It’s an important marker in our lives getting that high school diploma, and it doesn’t go away. Some of our most inspiring learners are Joyce and Margaret because they’re going to stick with it. It’s a personal goal, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes.”

In Virginia, an adult who has not completed high school can earn a diploma by passing the GED test or by completing the National External Diploma Test. The GED test measures a student’s educational level on subjects that include science, social studies, math and reasoning through language arts. Students must take each test and score a minimum of 145 out of 200.

Free GED classes in Greene County are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at PVCC in Stanardsville from 9:30 a.m.-noon and at the Greene County Technical Education Center in Stanardsville from 5:30-8 p.m. Classes can be taken at any pace. TJACE at PVCC also offers “GED To Go,” an online alternative to in-person GED classes.

“We are so flexible to meet adults where they are,” Coffey said. “We’re going to help you get that credential that you want, and we’re also going to help you start developing skills and getting tools to get that job you want. We just want to say ‘Look, it’s a tough test, but you can do it and we’re here to help.’”

To learn more about GED offerings in Greene County, visit or call (434) 961-4561.

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Logan Bogert is a reporter for the Greene County Record in Stanardsville, Virginia. She can be reached at or (434) 985-2315. Follow Logan on Twitter at @Logan_Bogert.

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