ABC, 123, GED!

Grade school, middle school, high school and then college. The usual progression through the educational system eventually ends with a walk across a stage with a cap and gown and a celebratory handshake. But, this is not a progression that all are able to complete, given the many curve balls life throws.

Regardless of how many curveballs are thrown, some people choose to step up to the plate and do their best to knock it out of the park, even if the odds are stacked against them. For those who are not able to make it across the stage at the end of high school or for those who were not able to finish or even attend school, the Frisco ISD is home to a program that allows students and community members to overcome the odds and, ultimately, achieve their scholastic goals.

As you may well know, Frisco is home to one of the fastest-growing school districts in the nation, and it is home to more than 55,000 students. In fact, the FISD is one of the premier school districts in the nation. Teachers are 100 percent dedicated to the success of every student. Though some of those students are unable to complete their coursework in the conventional manner (K-12 grades), teachers are still committed to meeting the needs of all who wish to put their education first by guiding them through Frisco’s General Education Development Program (GED).

GED® is a trademark acronym used for General Educational Development tests, a battery of examinations administered by states and jurisdictions to measure the skills and knowledge similar to a high school course of study. The four content areas include reasoning through language arts (RLA), math, science and social studies. The GED is the only high school equivalency test or credential recognized in all 50 states.

The Frisco GED testing site was established in 2000, at the Student Opportunity Center (SOC), an alternative school offering many opportunities and classes for students who fall behind or need extra help. It was a small program at first, with testing about once a month. At the same time, Cynthia Brent and Tricia Wilson (current Pearson Vue GED Testing Administrators) worked on the SOC campus and initiated the first elementary District Alternative Education Program for the FISD. Ms. Brent and Ms. Wilson worked flawlessly together, as they had taught as a team since January of 1995 at Rogers Elementary School.

These ladies brought many years of teaching experience to the testing program and in dealing with the public. In 2004, Ms. Brent took over the GED program with Ms. Wilson working intermittently as the proctor. Today, they are back together again and administered 405 GED exams during the 2015-2016 school year! The duo serves as testing administrators for the Collin County Correctional Facility at least once every month.

Ms. Brent and Ms. Wilson have developed a testing site to meet the needs of former FISD students, adults in the community, home school candidates and immigrants seeking high school equivalency. Their number one goal is to give individual attention, information and encouragement. They continually seek to build rapport with every candidate who walks in the testing room, so they will feel welcomed and confident in this monumental task. The test administrators greet each tester with warmth and compassion to help ease test anxiety. Ms. Brent says, “We hope to continue to meet the needs of the residents of North Texas by not merely offering the GED test, but by making personal connections along the way!”

A person may wish to pursue a GED for any number of reasons. Those who graduated from high school in another country may want to have a GED to share with employers, along with other educational accomplishments. People who did not finish high school and have been in a career for many years may find that their human resources department now requires a GED. Young people who got off track with their education can take a strong step toward making themselves more employable by getting a GED.

For some, earning a GED is a last chance effort to correct former mistakes or secure a more stable future. Many of the testers are seeking the GED to start community college (and eventually transfer to a university), enroll in a vocational school, acquire a job, keep an existing job or to make other opportunities available that can impact the rest of their lives. A GED certificate will not only give someone a high school diploma, but it will help them get a better job. Employers would rather hire someone who has the basic skills to pass the GED test than someone who does not. Earning a GED certificate means the graduate has the fortitude to successfully finish the difficult GED test. Statistics show that someone with a diploma or someone holding a GED certificate can expect to earn more money than people who do not have it. The GED affords another avenue to improve and advance a person’s quality of life.

In true FISD fashion, Ms. Brent admits, “Whenever one of our testers passes the GED, we rejoice with them. Their success is our success!” Ms. Brent recalls one of her favorite GED testers, sharing, “Ms. Florita Dull was a spry, vivacious 61-year-old Filipino woman who resided in Frisco. Even though English was her second language, she wanted to prove to her husband and children that she could earn her high school certificate here in the U.S.” Ms. Brent continues, “She did not need the money, and she was not in the workforce, but she wanted to accomplish this for her own personal satisfaction. With the language barrier, she was not successful at first. Over several years, she came to classes, paid tutors and studied. She ended up taking the test more than 15 times, but imagine her joy when she successfully passed all four parts! Her tenacity and perseverance was truly admirable.”

Earning a GED not only opens doors for people, it allows them to realize their dreams of success. It proves that they can truly overcome any obstacle in their way. Robert Hallett earned his GED through Frisco’s program. He attributes his current success to diligent hard work that went toward that GED. Ultimately, he met his personal goals. Mr. Hallett remembers, “I just had a turn-around in my life. God was truly blessing me and I was working to better myself. I wanted to complete things. I had a lot of unfinished business in my life. I did not finish high school, and there I was trying to be successful in life. I ultimately decided I needed to go back and start completing things I had not finished. I had written down some goals, and one was to have my GED by a certain date. It just coincidentally happened that I took the test and passed them all. I looked at the date after I had passed and it happened to be the date that I had written down in my goals.” He continues, “Before I got my GED I was working for a plumbing company. I decided to leave the company and start my own business. I now run a handyman business, Handy Hallett, and it is just me, doing full-time handyman work. It has been really great!”

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older, who is not currently enrolled in high school and has not graduated from high school may be eligible to register for the test, as long as he or she meets the state requirements regarding age and residency. A candidate who is 17 years old may be able to take the test with parental permission.

For those interested in earning a GED, it is not a requirement to have any prior preparation before testing. However, earning a GED requires passing a rigorous battery of tests that take approximately seven hours to complete. Regardless of the candidate’s ability, he or she will perform better on the tests if there are clear expectations before testing day arrives. The FISD offers GED preparation classes for any Frisco resident (proof of residence is required and testers must be at least 18 years of age to attend). The classes are free of charge and are taught by Sue Stafford, former Frisco STYLE Magazine Person of the Year, and Mary Reck, who both have years of experience teaching, right here in the FISD. Classes are held on Monday and Wednesday nights, from 6-9 p.m., at the SOC, located at 6928 Maple Street. Interested students can buy a GED study guide at area bookstores, or students can opt for online help. Charges may apply for some preparation products and services.

The online GED test must be taken in person at an official GED testing center. A candidate may register and pay online, but they must come to the testing center to take the exam. It is permissible to take one, two or all parts of the battery of tests. Tests are offered in English and in Spanish. It is possible to combine language versions to complete the test.

Before registering, a candidate needs to make sure they have valid government-issued photo identification (a Texas driver’s license, DPS ID card, passport, military ID card or Mexico Consular Matricula Card). If the ID does not have a Texas address, proof of Texas residency must be shown. Candidates must also have a credit or debit card or prepaid VISA and a current email address.

When candidates are ready to register, they can go to ged.com or call 1.877.EXAM.GED. Test Fees are $33.75 per section ($135 for all four sections), and candidates may have two discounted retakes for each subject area. The retake fee is $13.75 and GED testing service fees are waived every retake. There is no limit to how many times the test may be taken in a year.

Babe Ruth once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” and the students and candidates who have traversed and succeeded through the FISD’s GED program are a testament to those wise words. Regardless of the number of curveballs they were thrown, they stood in the batter’s box, told the pitcher to keep on pitching and, ultimately, knocked it out of the park. GED programs attract students and people from all walks of life, giving them the opportunity to reach goals, find closure, tie-up loose ends or simply better themselves. Frisco’s program celebrates student and candidate success. For more information, visit friscoisd.org/ged.

Allie Spletter

Allie Spletter is a wannabe foodie and lover of all things pink and crafty.