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High school equivalency classes begin Oct. 20

Adults in Unicoi County who haven’t earned a high school diploma will soon have the opportunity to receive their High School Equivalency (HES) diploma free of charge.
The classes, which will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Calvary Baptist Church, are being coordinated by First Frontier Adult Education.
“Primarily, it is a program that helps adults, individuals from 17 years old and above, who did not complete their high school educational process and, we’re here to help them acquire their High School Equivalency (HES) diploma,” said David Egbert, supervisor with First Frontier Adult Education. “In the past, a GED has been the nomenclatural that everybody responded to. The state of Tennessee, and most of the 50 states in the Union, no longer use GED since it is a privately owned company trademark. So now, it is an HES.”
Egbert also said that the state of Tennessee recognizes the HES diploma as a high school diploma, which is the equivalent to a GED.
“Another educational testing service, EPS, has developed a test similar to the GED,” Egbert added. This is the testing First Frontier Adult Education uses in its curriculum.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam awarded funds to pay for all HSE exams if they meet a certain level of the educational process, Egbert said. The funds come from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
“The state of Tennessee allocated funds to all the counties,” Egbert added. “A couple of years ago, they consolidated down to allow money to be saved. That’s where I inherited Unicoi County. We operate through Johnson City Schools, serving Washington and Unicoi counties. That’s how the Johnson City School System oversees the program in Unicoi County.”
The location for classes is at Calvary Baptist Church. The church is led by Pastor David Crutchfield.
“David is a GED graduate and has spoken at our graduations,” Egbert said. “He’s been gracious enough to let our classes take place in his church. Over the last several years, we’ve had on-going classes in the evening hours, and some in the morning, but during that time our teachers moved on. We’ve been struggling to find a teacher, but we recently hired one so our goal is to get the word out about the classes.”
Phoebe Remington, a North Carolina native living in Johnson City, will serve as the new educator in the county for classes at Calvary Baptist.
“I grew up in North Carolina and went to Eastern Carolina University for my bachelor’s degree in elementary education,” Remington said Monday. “I taught first grade for four years then decided to attend UNC-Greensboro for their master’s program and graduated in 2013.
“After that, I decided I wanted to take a different route with education and work with adults. I think this is a wonderful program and an awesome opportunity to serve the community,” Remington continued.
Egbert said that data from the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 4,500 individuals living in Unicoi County do not have a high school diploma and are eligible to participate in the program.
“We’d like to serve each and every single one of them,” he added. “There’s no reason 4,500 people in Unicoi County don’t join up with the classes. There’s no out-of-pocket money and testing fees are being waived and paid for by the state. Our primary goal is to get people to acquire their high school diploma, assist with post-secondary education, training or job situations.”
Egbert said that the honored guest at a graduation two years ago was an 85-year-old who made a commitment to his mother that before he passed he would earn his high school diploma.
“There are all kinds of reasons to get in the door,” Egbert said. “It is our responsibility to do what we can to meet their desires.”
Classes are held 48 weeks out of the year and follow the same schedule as school systems, including breaks for holidays.
For more information, contact First Frontier Adult Education at jcschools.org/adulted or call 434-0206.