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    HopeWorks greatly expands GED classes through state grant

    By Linda A. Moore - The Commercial Appeal -

    Back in high school, Clifton Remble wasn't a bad student, earning B's and C's.

    Still, the 36-year-old dropped out at 16.

    "I got in some trouble. I got locked up for selling drugs," Remble said, acknowledging that he'd been in trouble most of his adult life.

    Today, Remble is enrolled in a general equivalency diploma class at HopeWorks in Midtown, with plans to turn his life around.

    Last week, HopeWorks received a $188,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, allowing the nonprofit to serve up to 700 people at five sites throughout the county during the next fiscal year.

    "This is a pretty big expansion," said Susan Rubio, director of education at HopeWorks.

    Last fiscal year, with the help of a $70,000 state grant, HopeWorks helped 180 GED students.

    The state of Tennessee estimates that more than 100,000 people in Shelby County need GEDs, which most employers and universities will accepted instead of a high school diploma, Rubio said.

    "And because it is so critical to an employment future for a job that has living wage potential, the state is doing everything it can to help people have that piece of paper in hand before (the cost to take the GED) goes up in 2014."

    The 10-week GED classes are free, but in 2014 the cost to take the test to receive the diploma goes up from $65 to $120, she said.

    Faith-based HopeWorks was started about 25 years ago and provides personal career and development classes for people in poverty who, like Remble, may have criminal records, a spotty work history or other challenges.

    GED classes were added after realizing that many of their clients lacked a high school diploma, Rubio said.

    "I decided I wanted to get myself together now," said Remble, who wants to earn "honest money."

    The GED class is a "reading and thinking class," that will help him with his long-term plans to start a small business.

    For the clients at HopeWorks, a GED is a huge confidence builder, said Anna Snickenberger, a HopeWorks instructor. A former Teach for America instructor, Snickenberger said she saw how the achievement gap among adults contributed to the achievement gap with their children.

    "So once we open the doors of education for the parents, they can take it to their children, they can help their children out, they can encourage their children to stay active in school," she said.

    Also, an education, including a GED, is the first stop for adults who are looking for jobs to support themselves and their families, she said.

    "If you want to go on to college, if you want to have any sort of stable career environment, you've got to be educated," Snickenberger said