Money is scarce for Tiana White, who lives in a homeless shelter and says she’s unable to work her retail job due to chronic back pain from a car accident. The mother of three, working on her GED at Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School in Northeast, estimates she spends $50 a week commuting on trains and buses from her home in Northwest Washington, and she wants the city council to help defray the costs of commuting for adult students.
Students met with D.C. Councilman Grosso and Anne Robinson, senior legislative counsel for the committee on education, on Sept. 29.
As part of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, White and some of her fellow students met with D.C. councilmembers David Grosso and Elissa Silverman to lobby for more educational resources. White told council members adult students should ride the Metro and trains for free — it’s a perk D.C. school children already enjoy.
“That would really help me out,” White said.
Adult education is sometimes seen as an afterthought and that’s why the school spent the week, from Sept. 26 through Oct. 1, raising awareness about the need and value of adult education, said Lecester Johnson, the school’s chief executive officer. Social issues often interrupt an adult’s education and force them to drop out, she said.
Johnson said 21 percent of working-age adults in the District don’t have a high school diploma. By 2018, she said, nearly three quarters of all jobs will demand education beyond a high school diploma.
Academy of Hope has been around since 1985 and operates eight adult charter schools in D.C. It offers adult education, students can earn GEDs or, if students prefer, certification through the National External Diploma Program. “We treat it as a second-chance program,” Johnson said. “I really think many adults didn’t have a first chance . . . these are sort of the forgotten kids who have come back.”
The students had a wide-ranging conversation with the councilmembers about their issues, but were not looking for a firm commitment from them. It was more about raising issues of awareness to them and being heard.
White, 36, had her first child during her senior year of high school —and he was born the day after she would have graduated. After taking three months off to look after her son, White returned to night school to earn her high school diploma. She failed the functional test she needed to secure her diploma — by seven points. Struggles with homelessness and medical problems continue to dog her, but she’s excited about her future.
Today, White is studying for her GED in hopes of becoming an entry-level medical assistant. In doing so, she’s teaching her children an important lesson about staying the course. “I’m trying to hurry up and get that piece of paper so I can get a good job as quick as possible,” White said. “It’s like I’m starting all over again, but it’s worth it in the end.”