Organizers of Thursday event hope to turn some dismal poverty numbers and lives around

Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones, right, speaks with Commissioner Gloria Gaines and Darrell Sabbs of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital prior to Monday’s commission meeting.

ALBANY — Area residents will have a one-stop shopping opportunity this week to meet with organizations that can help them get their career, education and even lives back on track.

For many people, that may include a GED, which can open the door to nearly all of the career pathways at Albany Technical College.

Connecting the dots between earning a GED and career pathways is one of the topics on tap for the Thursday community empowerment event at Albany High School. The event at the 801 Residence Ave. campus is scheduled for 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Other offerings from Albany Tech include information about dual enrollment through the Georgia Technical College System and commercial truck driving.

Potentially life-changing information includes that from the Dougherty County Law Library about having a felony conviction expunged from an individual’s record and options for mental health treatment offered by ASPIRE Behavioral Health.

In addition, information will be available about financial literacy from Synovus Bank, and participants will find work force training opportunities, health and wellness and employment tools.

Albany Tech can help students who need the high school equivalency certificate, from those who need to learn to read to those who need only a little assistance passing part of the required test.

Best of all, it’s free.

There is no charge for tuition and books, but the exam costs $160. However, many students qualify under a program that covers the costs of the exam.

“It’s an opportunity for us to talk to people and make them aware about opportunities Albany Tech can help them with,” Linda Costin, the college’s vice president of adult education, said of the empowerment event.

Southwest Georgia has a high number of adults who are not in the work force. That number is 38.8 percent in Dougherty County and is even higher in Clay County, at 50.4 percent, and Calhoun County’s 63.4 percent, according to a report distributed last year by Albany Tech.

Lacking a high school diploma or equivalency certificate also plays a role in underemployment, Costin said. The jobs available to residents who are lacking those often are on the low end of the pay scale and receive little or no benefits.

The same report shows that 19.2 percent of adults in the Second Congressional District, which includes most of southwest Georgia, do not have a high school diploma. In Dougherty County, that number is 17.9 percent, and is as high as nearly 30 percent in Randolph County.

“There are many employers who will not hire you without an equivalency or high school diploma,” Costin said. “Folks often have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Much of the time the jobs are not full-time jobs. Less than full-time does not provide health insurance or have a retirement plan.”

Those limitations make a high quality of life difficult to achieve, she said.

A better job isn’t the only benefit. Once a student has a GED in hand, he or she can enter the other courses of study available at Albany Tech.

“Students also can jointly enroll in a technical college program at the same time” they are enrolled in the GED program, Costin said.

Spring semester enrollment in the GED program is 631.

The abysmal numbers reflected in adults not in the work force shows the need for Thursday’s event, Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones said.

“We need to get a portion of those 25,000 folks back in the work force,” he said. “I believe once you do that, then you will start to see the crime rate go down. People will feel a sense of community.”

The event isn’t just about handing out literature or discussion, however. Those who attend can take positive action the same day.

“We’re going to sign them up that same day,” Jones said. “If you’re interested in GEDs, all the information is going to be readily available for them to enroll in anything that piques their interest.”

Albany State University will address the nursing shortage facing the nation and region and how its nursing program can help solve the problem, Jones said.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We just need the community excited. If you know someone who needs to see us on the 20th, send them our way.”

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