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Volunteer's dedication pays off for GED students
By TRICIA SCHUG, Special to The Mirror
On a recent Wednesday afternoon shortly after his GED class ended for the day, instructor Ed DeVange sat with a student, talking earnestly.
The young woman, Shawna Moore, was preparing to take one of five tests required to earn the high school diploma equivalency. She had doubts about whether she would pass her next exam.
“I believe in you,” DeVange said. “You’ll do great because you’re ready. Just remember that.”
Moore nodded, noticeably buoyed-up by his words.
DeVange, an Auburn resident and Boeing retiree, teaches General Education Development (GED) classes as a volunteer for Multi-Service Center. He is both instructor and mentor to the more than 50 students whom he has helped earn their GED in the past four years.
“I have yet to tell a student that he or she is ready to take a test that didn’t pass,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”
And this time was no exception. Moore not only passed the test she was worried about, but also got a perfect score. Since then, she has passed all five exams and completed her GED.
For the more than 60 students currently enrolled in one of the six GED classes at Multi-Service Center, MSC’s program provides a model of individualized attention that helps many succeed. Through both small-group classes and one-on-one tutoring, students who need additional assistance or who learn in ways different than the more traditional educational model can benefit from Multi-Service Center’s approach.
“Our program at MSC is unique in that it allows students to study at their own pace and receive individualized tutoring,” said Marissa Cannon, MSC’s education program specialist. “Our students don’t seem to feel the same pressure they did while in school.”
Keys to success
Volunteer instructors like DeVange are key to the program’s success.
Drawing on his past management experience at Boeing and his ability to develop people, DeVange regularly charts his students’ progress in a thick binder filled with notes and ideas for helping each one accomplish his or her goals.
“I help students get through one door so they can go through the next one,” he said.
Tests to get a GED certificate focus on such subjects as reading comprehension, writing, social studies, math and science. Students prepare by reading and taking practice tests on each subject.
Not everyone who starts the program finishes it, DeVange noted.
“Most of my students are adults who have lives to worry about. I’d say that 80 percent of them are single mothers who have complicated and demanding lives.”
He said he tries not to feel discouraged by those who drop out, choosing instead to focus on the progress he sees in each student.
“I watch their self-esteem grow with every test they pass. It is an amazing thing to see. There really is a lot for them to gain in the GED process,” he said.
In October, Multi-Service Center celebrated 13 students who earned their GED — the largest graduation class to date. Several current students are only a test or two away from completion now.
“When you see a student be successful, it’s a nice feeling,” DeVange said. “You feel you’ve accomplished something. And when they come in with their test scores showing they’ve passed a test, well…that’s my payday!”
With a wide grin, he added: “I have lots of hobbies and projects, but this is my favorite.”
To learn more about Multi-Service Center’s GED program, either as a potential student or a potential volunteer instructor, contact Marissa Cannon at (253) 838-6810, ext. 138.
Tricia Schug is communications manager for Multi-Service Center. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 835-7678, ext. 104.