Not only have the goals shifted, but the student demographics have changed as well. It comes as no surprise that in a state where the Hispanic population increased by 239 percent between 1990 and 2004, the number of English-as-a-second-language students enrolled in programs like the Adult Learning Center also has increased.
Esperanza Zavala earned her GED in 2002. Born in Fresno, Calif., Zavala moved to Chicago where she dropped out of high school in her second year. After raising her family for two decades, Zavala relocated to Danville and decided to complete her education. She currently works with the Adult Learning Center as a teacher, serving Spanish-language pupils in addition to the general student population.
"It was hard for me to go back to school and start all over after 20 years of not going to school," Zavala said as she gave English lessons to Rosauro Caldera.
"It was the hard part of going back to the English and the writing and the reading and all that."
Originally from Mexico City, Caldera has been in the program for 1-1/2 years and was enthusiastic about the new opportunities his improved English skills have afforded him.
"I think it's better for me, because the door's open for me. I think it's good for me and my family," Caldera said.
Training in English
The ESL program serves not just Hispanics, but a diverse group of immigrants. Aurelie Doui emigrated from the Central African Republic to the United States at age 28, unable to speak any English. After six months in the program, she was proficient enough in the language to start preparing for the GED. She currently works as a certified nursing assistant and is training at Bluegrass Community and Technical College to become a nurse.
"If you really want to do it, you can do it," Doui said. "Everybody is there to help, and they still do. If I don't know something, I still go back there."
Although Preston's pupils have become considerably younger over the years, with teenagers now constituting the primary age demographic, 73-year-old Donald McEwan has defied this trend. After being kicked out of high school in 1952, McEwan worked for 56 years without a high school diploma.
In January 2007, McEwan decided to complete his education and enrolled to take the GED through the Adult Learning Center.
After passing the test with flying colors, he took the ACT in April and was enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University by the summer, where he currently holds a 3.09 grade point average.
McEwan was invited to the Kentucky Adult Education Association legislative luncheon in February in honor of his achievements.
"It was a personal goal for a long time," McEwan said, reflecting upon his diploma. "I'd just come to a place where I could follow through."
Whether someone is young or old, immigrant or Boyle County native, the center provides educational services to whomever requires them and caters to the unique needs of individual students.
With a 78 percent pass rate in 2005-2006, the center continues to prepare people with the skills needed to survive in the modern economy.
"I want to let people know that if I can do it, anyone can do it," Doui said. "Don't be afraid to come forward and get the help you need."