GED Spells Success for Local Students

UNM-Los Alamos Adult Learning Center Manager Michele Worley spoke to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos Tuesday about the GED preparation program. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

UNM-Los Alamos provides GED (General Education Development) test preparation classes for those who did not graduate from high school and would like to study for the GED.

UNM-Los Alamos Adult Learning Center Manager Michele Worley spoke to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos Tuesday about the program.

“In the Los Alamos community, there is not much awareness of what the GED is and how it can fit into the educational continuum,” Worley said. “Although it is difficult to find support for our program in Los Alamos, the Rotary Club recognizes the need for it. We greatly appreciate your support.”

The Rotary Club of Los Alamos has a GED Scholarship to pay GED testing fees. In addition, the Club has provided funds to purchase classroom response systems or “clickers” for GED classes.

Each student has a wireless handheld response pad, or clicker, with which they are able to answer questions. The teacher poses a question verbally and the students respond by pressing the correct answer with their handheld device.

The devises give teachers the ability to pose verbal questions and receive immediate feedback from students allowing the instructor to totally change the dynamics of what might be an otherwise tiresome lecture period into an interactive learning session, Worley said. Teachers can find out immediately whether students are grasping the material being presented.

“The GED program fills a need for students who have slipped through the cracks,” she said. “These are students who did not receive the support they needed to make it through school. These are often students who left their high school each day feeling inferior and stupid.”

“Many students who have left high school come to see me with low self-esteem, feeling like they failed,” Worley said. “Part of what we do in our program is build that self-esteem back up. We celebrate the unique personalities and abilities of our students.”

Students leave school for many reasons, Worley said. Some students may need to help support their families. Others may experience bullying. A teen pregnancy can interrupt a student’s high school career. Sometimes the social environment is overwhelming to a student. Sometimes students are struggling with depression. Sometimes a student gets off track and finds they cannot catch up with their peers.

“There is only one high school in Los Alamos, and when a student struggles there, they feel they are stuck,” Worley said. “These are students whose parents agonize over whether to keep their children in school when they are so obviously unhappy and unsuccessful there.”

There is a perception that taking the GED is an “easy” alternative to high school. However studies have shown four out of 10 high school graduates could not pass all portions of the GED, Worley said.

“I would argue that the GED is the best way to see if a student is ready for the world,” Worley said. “It measures the skills and knowledge students should have when they leave high school. There is no discrimination. It is not competitive, it’s competency based.”

UNM-LA also offers GED classes in Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Jemez Pueblo, and at the Delancey Street program in the Espanola Valley.

“The support we get from these communities for our services is almost overwhelming. The GED classrooms are full with students from age 16 to 70 who thank us for offering our classes there,” Worley said.  

“There is a perception that passing the GED is not that big an accomplishment. For older students, the decision to go back to school and get the GED is terribly hard to make. For some, it’s the biggest challenge of their lives but they do it. These are people who have learned over the years to truly value education,” she said.

 “Many young people drop out of school because they just don’t have the maturity to understand how important getting an education is. They might not be developmentally ready to learn all that is required in high school,” Worley said. “They may come to the realization that they need to finish school later in life. The GED is there to give them another chance to do that. Everyone deserves that second chance.”

“We want those students and parents who feel they need to explore their educational options to visit the Adult Learning Center at UNM-LA and talk with us,” Worley said. “We offer free 8-week classes to prepare students for the GED and for life after the GED.”

For more information, call Marlene Gray, program coordinator, at 505-662-0338, or email her at

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