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Path to a brighter future: Gov. announces free GED testing

Kimberly Aery loves being a cheerleader for students preparing for their GED exams. She sees it as a vital part of her job as a Skills U assistant at Jessamine County Adult Education.

“There are those people who haven’t yet lived up to their potential,” Aery said. “They come in with a fear of failure, and I’m here to help them succeed.”

Aery, a Jessamine County native and mother of three, is intimately familiar with the kind of fears and obstacles those GED students are facing. Seventeen years ago, she dropped out while in her senior year of high school.

Adding to the struggle, her father passed away unexpectedly leaving her mother financially strapped. Aery rose to the occasion by helping her mom pay the mortgage to save the family home.

“I was working two or three jobs because that’s what I needed to do,” Aery said. “GED was one of those things that wasn’t a priority. Making ends meet was the priority.”

Aery found her way to the GED program at Jessamine County Adult Education about 10 years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.

“I knew I needed a GED, but I let my own chaos of life just kind of deter me,” Aery said. “I left the program several times, and every time I returned, the staff would welcome me back.”

The turning point came in May 2017.

“I woke up very depressed and knew I needed to make a change,” Aery said. “So I got up and told myself I was going to commit to the GED program and make a better way. I wanted to go to college and get into the medical field.”

Armed with a new attitude, Aery was able to pass the GED test in just 16 days, and was later asked to be a featured speaker at the annual GED graduation ceremony.

When a job opening came up for an adult education administrative assistant 16 months ago, GED Program Director Mary Newton sought out Aery for the position.

“When Kimberly was a student I noticed she had an enthusiasm that’s contagious,” Newton said. “After she earned her GED, we had stayed in touch. She had helped me as a volunteer go out and promote the program.”

“Then when I was invited to speak on Doug Fain’s morning radio show (JessFM 105.9), I took Kimberly with me,” Newton said. “She was able to share her story and encourage others to complete the GED.”

“Everyone on our staff is very positive and really wants to see our students succeed, but Kimberly is the only person who’s actually had to sit for the GED test,” Newton said. “It’s really nice to have her as a voice of authority who has faced the same fears and struggles.”

Aery has plans to enroll in Bluegrass Community and Technical College while continuing to change lives at Jessamine County Adult Education.

HIGH-DEMAND INDUSTRIES

Jessamine County Adult Education is finding ways to connect people with their employment goals through a partnership with the Kentucky Career Center.

“Our number one goal is putting people to work,” said Shacole Jones, one of three Talent Development Specialists who visit Jessamine County on a weekly basis. “We will help with job search, resume writing and interviewing skills.”

The emphasis is on Kentucky’s high-demand industries where good wages and job openings are projected over the next five years — health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, construction and transportation and logistics

“We have up to $8,500 in funds for individuals in two-year college programs like BCTC,” Jones said. “In addition we have $600 per year for books and supplies.” Some of these services have eligibility requirements.

For students who are between 18 and 24 years old and working on their GED, the Kentucky Career Center provides a $250 bonus for passing the GED.

The programs are open to students who may have barriers to education or employment such as homelessness, low income, active substance abuse recovery, reentering from the justice system and other factors.

Newton would like to remind everyone Gov. Andy Beshear announced last week the $120 GED testing fee is being waived in the state, which makes the GED free. She said January is a great time to set your new personal educational and employment goals.

Jessamine County Adult Education is located at 851 Wilmore Road between the Early Learning Village and Warner Elementary. To get started or to learn more, drop by or call (859) 887-9052.