Moultrie Technical College has nominated one of its own employees and a 2002 GED diploma recipient for the Technical College System of Georgia’s 2010 Outstanding Achievement Award.

Karla Thomas, 38, is a full-time custodian on Moultrie Tech’s Industrial Drive campus in Moultrie. But her history with the college and its Adult Education program dates back to the early 1990s.

Born in Moultrie in 1972, Thomas attended school in Colquitt County but dropped out due to the stresses of peer pressure and negative influences.

“She was like a child that just grew up too early, as in many children of the 21st century,” said Janelle Jelks, an MTC adult education instructor.

 She entered the Adult Education program at Moultrie Tech to prepare to take the GED examination under the leadership of Bill Christopher several times in the 1990s.

“Like many students, she was a stop-out … not a drop-out but a stop-out. She would enroll and then stop coming, and then come back several years later only to do the same thing again. But after rededicating her life to her unborn child … she became very serious about the Adult Education program,” added Jelks.

Thomas enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) GED program, a federal program which provides financial help for children and their parents, in its inception year of 1999 at Moultrie Tech. Under the leadership of then MTC Adult Education program director Jerry Smith and Jelks, she quickly realized that math was her strong point.

But after several failed attempts at passing the GED exam, Thomas found herself with low self-esteem and pride yet still strong in her work ethic and determination. She was known to stay late daily and for attending school on days when the college was closed to students but open to faculty and on days when other students missed class.

“I remember vividly when Karla took the TABE [Tests of Adult Basic Education] exam one day, and it just clicked,” said Jelks. “She went from scores that were in ABE Level 2 and ABE Level 3 to scores well in ABE Level 4 and ABE Level 5 … literally overnight. She had a light bulb moment and hit a turning point in her life.”

Thomas, who earned her GED credentials in 2002, went from being an Adult Education student to enrolling in Moultrie Tech as a credit student to being employed with the college as a work study student. She later accepted a position in April 2004 as a part-time custodian at the college in the evenings and has worked her way up to the full-time position she now holds.

A homework tutor for children in her neighborhood, Thomas also earned a CNA, or certified nursing assistant, license and an Early Childhood Care & Education certificate from Moultrie Tech. She is currently in the process of enrolling in the Early Childhood Care & Education program to complete her diploma.

“Karla is the model of a dependable, punctual, helpful, knowledgeable and persistent student. She is a person who seems to be able to do just about anything she sets out to do. She is very passionate about her work, family and education. She is an excellent role model of what a potential GED student can do if they put their mind to it,” said Jelks.

Thomas has two children, Kevin, age 8, and Kayla, age 3. Kevin is an autistic child. She works diligently with both of her children at home and through their classroom teachers and is actively involved in the classroom and parent association.

Adult Education and GED preparation programs serve adult students like Thomas who need to improve their basic literacy and math skills, improve their oral and written English, practice for the GED test to attain a high school equivalence degree, and prepare for community college or vocational training.

According to the latest national survey of adults, more than 93 million American adults have basic or below basic literacy skills that limit their ability to advance at work and in education, help their children with school work and participate in their communities.

In its four-county service delivery area of Colquitt, Tift, Turner and Worth, Moultrie Tech has served an average of 1,350 students per year over the last four years with an average of 320 students per year obtaining a GED credential.

For more information about Moultrie Tech’s Adult Education program, call (229) 217-4181 or log on to www.moultrietech.edu/adulted/.

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