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Beacon of H.O.P.E. notes GED program’s success

December 26, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Chrissy Fraham GED Program, which is offered through the Beacon of H.O.P.E., is graduating students at a faster rate than Lee County.

"We are graduating kids in less than a year, the traditional average in Lee County is two years," said Bill Thacher, Beacon board director, treasurer and GED math teacher.

He believes the graduation rate is faster because the students who are in the GED class are motivated and want to be there. The age of the students range from the 20s to their 40s.

In addition to the teachers, Thacher said they also have mentors. He said they have a wonderful high school student who comes in and other volunteers who work with the students at the levels they need.

"The mentors program is probably why we are successful," Thacher said, because not only do they receive classroom time with him, but they also receive mentoring on an individual basis.

Thacher said although he has been a long-time Kiwanis member on the island, he wanted to branch out a little and give back to the community on more of an individual basis, rather than just on a community basis.

"Once I was on the board, I heard that the math teacher had left the GED program," he said of how he got involved.

When Thacher worked in Citrus County, he taught classes, which he really enjoyed, so he decided to take over the math class.

He became hooked on teaching the GED class after six or seven students, who were struggling with their math, passed their GED test within the first three or four months he began.

"It made me feel 10 feet tall," he said, adding that once you get that feeling its hard to stop. "I love being a teacher. I love teaching adults. When I see someone walking in my classroom at the adult level I know they want to be there."

Now Thacher teaches the GED class once a week on Thursday's from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

There are a total of four classes taught by volunteers through the GED program - math, science, English and history - two of which are taught on Tuesday and the other two on Thursday. The students are provided with lunch during the class.

Thacher said he tackles teaching math by telling his students that the subject matter is a game.

"When you play a game, it is about rules. Once you learn the rules then it becomes like playing a mystery game," he said, adding that you have to solve the mystery of those numbers. "All you have to do is focus on the rules."

When Thacher teaches the class, he goes one or two levels above the GED test to make it easier on the students when they sit down and take the actual test.

Lessons are usually taught within the first 20 to 30 minutes of the class, which is then followed by practice. Thacher said he always sends the students home with problems to work on before the next week's class. He said this is done because it helps him monitor where they are excelling and where additional help needs to be provided.

"I will do anything I can to help them achieve their goals," Thacher said. "When I see motivated adults that want to better their lives, it sucks me in."

Thacher said they have room and funding for more students who wish to obtain their GED. He said although the classes are free, they ask the students to give back by doing community service for the Beacon in order to help out other people.

"The more students we can have the better," Thacher said. "I would love to have 30 students in my classroom."

Those who are interested in taking a GED class are encouraged to go to the Beacon and let officials know they want to be involved in the program.



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