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Students Champion Adult Education
Linda Mah
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Students Champion Adult Education

KPS Hosts Forum to Discuss Adult Ed

Ruby Dixon was barely getting by when she acted on a coworker’s suggestion and enrolled in the Kalamazoo Public Schools Adult Education program. Last fall, the 22-year-old achieved a milestone in her quest for a better life for her and her daughter.

In November, she earned a GED through adult education, and today she is enrolled in a certified nursing assistant program in partnership with Michigan Works! and the adult education programs in Kalamazoo and Comstock.

“I knew that this wasn’t just a priority for myself; my priority was to work hard for my daughter, too,” Dixon said.

She shared her story at a “Students Speak” forum, sponsored by Michigan’s Children and the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE), on March 11 in the Kalamazoo Community Education Center. MACAE advocates for community and adult education on the local, state and federal level. Michigan’s Children is a child advocacy group, with an emphasis on children in need.

Among those attending the forum were: state Sen. Sean McCann; Annie Brown, a staff member for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters; Mary Judnich, a staff member for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow; and Mariah Phelps, a staff member for state Rep. Jim Haadsma.

Kim Bell, director of the Kalamazoo Adult Education program, said stories like Ruby’s and others illustrate the importance of helping community residents on a path to academic and career improvement.

There are immeasurable benefits for communities when under-educated residents achieve the educational skills they need for better-paying jobs or when parents are able to better participate in their children’s education, Bell said.

“These circumstances benefit our local economies and have the potential to break cycles of poverty,” she said.

In the past, nearly every school district in Region 8 (Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties) operated an adult education program, but most have closed because of funding issues. Today, just Kalamazoo and Comstock operate adult education programs in Kalamazoo County.

For years, adult education programs have been underfunded and inaccessible for many in Michigan. MACAE estimates that more than 42,000 Michiganders of child-bearing age do not have more than a ninth-grade education, limiting their employment opportunities and chances for economic self-sufficiency.

“Michigan will have over 811,000 career openings through 2024,” said MACAE President Bob Steeh. “Who’s going to fill those jobs openings when one in 10 Michiganders over 18 do not have a high school diploma? We are at a critical stage. Adult education can play an important role in workforce development and in closing that basic skills gap.”

Cutline: Kalamazoo Public Schools Adult Education Director Kim Bell speaks with Mary Judnich from Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s office, state Sen. Sean McCann, and Janice Storrs, coordinator of Coldwater Adult Education.

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