(02/25/14) - An alarming number of people in Genesee County don't have high school diplomas
or can't read very well - but they know it's up to them to turn things around.
At St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center in Flint, the literacy program is helping people get back on the road to a good education.
For the past six years, dozens of people in Mid-Michigan have been able to improve their lives through a program that helps them earn their GED.
About 98 percent of the people enrolled in the literacy program are working on their GEDs.
"I didn't finish school. When I was in ninth grade, I quit school to work three jobs to help my mom. My mom got diagnosed with breast cancer, so she couldn't take care of herself," said Michael Larose, Literacy Center student.
Now Larose is ready to get his GED by studying with tutors at the Literacy Center.
"I really want to finish my education and own my own business and support my family that way," he said.
In recent months, 17 of these students have received their GED and are either working or going to college - or both.
"Every day I wake up and I look at it, like, I got to do it, got to do it. So I just put my mind to it and get up and just go for it," said Matthew Thomas, Literacy Center student.
Some people who have enrolled in the program come in only able to read at an eighth grade level. A team of volunteers, many of them retired teachers, spend hours and hours with the students, helping them with their math and reading skills, preparing them for a GED test with new, tougher standards.
"I was tired of not being educated well enough to go out and accomplish things that I was looking for in life," said Karen Rawls, Literacy Center student.
Sister Janice Popilek, who heads the program, says they will do whatever it takes to get these people back on track.
"Whatever way we can help them, we will help them," she said.
She says the students work very hard, and they listen. Admitting they need help can be humbling.
"Some of them feel inferior. They're not as good as other people. We're trying to build up their self-esteem. Some of them have trouble spelling their city name or the street that the live on or the nearest street to them," Sister Popilek said.
Sister Popilek says there are 15 tutors help to get the job done.
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