Dear editor:

Recently, an ABC News program stated that 7 million Americans are illiterate, 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application and 30 million cannot read a simple sentence. In Georgia, the undereducated cost business and industry $2.1 billion annually. Our state's low skill level presents the single greatest barrier to our economic prosperity.

Locally, how do we fare? Not so well. Of those 25 years of age or older, 9,170 do not have a high school diploma or equivalency. Of these 9,170 residents, 1,342 lack a fifth grade education. Such a large population of under-educated people creates challenges to economic growth. Without a literate and skilled workforce, desirable industry will bypass us. This is why Colquitt County must embrace literacy as a mantra for our economic well-being.

Several organizations work tirelessly to change these grim statistics. On the front line is the Colquitt County School System which delivers quality education to our children. Within the last five years, Colquitt County Schools have improved the graduation rate significantly - from 52.9% in 2003 completing high school on time to 69.5% in 2008. Students are also performing better as a whole on the high school graduation tests and the SAT. This is real improvement which shows the commitment of the school board, superintendent, teachers and staff to producing a quality workforce

Moultrie Technical College's Adult Education Program has programs for those who are not able to complete high school. Many enrollees are mature students who realize the need for basic skills training and high school credentials in order to improve their quality of life. During the past fiscal year, 535 Colquitt County adults 16 years of age or older enrolled in Adult Education classes and worked to improve their basic skills for a combined 69,525 hours of class time. Over half of those students showed progress by completing a level in their skills training.

Certified Literate Community Program, sponsored by the Technical College System of Georgia, is one Colquitt County group that is working to promote literacy here. This group sponsors Ferst Foundation, an initiative that mails books monthly to Colquitt County pre-schoolers. CLCP also distributes dictionaries to third graders in all county schools. On September 9-12, CLCP is holding a Scholastic Book Fair at Moultrie Technical College. CLCP will also sponsor a logo sale during September. Area businesses will ask you to buy a Literacy Is a Lifestyle logo to display in their business. Proceeds from these events will benefit adult education students who need assistance paying for their GED test fees, graduation expenses, application fees for college, and other expenses.

As you can see, CLCP supports literacy initiatives for all ages. Its motto, Literacy Is a Lifestyle, embodies life learning among residents of Colquitt County. Are we becoming more literate? Yes, we are. Are we there yet? No. That is why all of us should support CLCP's activities during September.

Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On this day, please take a minute to thank the many volunteers and professionals who work to educate our children and adults. Oh, and purchase a Literacy Is a Lifestyle logo when the clerk asks. Attend the CLCP book fair and buy a book. Take it home and read it to your child. Tell your child that education is primo in your house. It's the least you can do to change our world.

Liz Keith,

executive director of adult education,

Moultrie Technical College

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