Silverhill GED Program fills void
Those involved in the education ministry of First Baptist Church, Silverhill, in Baldwin Baptist Association hope to give people a chance to better their lives permanently, and they plan to do this by enhancing the education level of the community.
First, Silverhill, along with neighboring Silverhill Covenant Church, began offering General Education Development (GED) classes last August to members of the community. The idea for this ministry — called Silverhill General Education Development Program — grew from a conversation between Alan House, pastor of First, Silverhill, and Dana Wolfe, a member of the church who works with GED classes.
“Our church has been reaching out to two local mobile home parks and had a number of residents from the parks attending our church,” House said. “Some of those residents were pretty hardworking. But because of a lack of education, they were only capable of working at minimum wage jobs.”
According to Wolfe, who works at Faulkner State Community College, the high school dropout rate in the area is around 19 percent. In certain small pockets of the community, the rate is actually about 50 percent, he added.
A partnership was formed with Silverhill Covenant to offer GED classes, with Wolfe leading the way as program classroom coordinator.
She trains volunteers from both churches to mentor participants. Every Tuesday and Thursday, 9–11 a.m. and 6–8 p.m., volunteers meet at First, Silverhill, to mentor students.
“The goals … are to establish a ministry that would help the public help themselves and, in doing so, be a light for Christ,” Wolfe said.
House also noted the dual opportunities presented by the ministry. “We want to give people a chance to better their lives and to encourage them to be the best they can be and to lead them to Christ along the way. I tell my church, ‘It’s nice to help people’s temporary needs. But isn’t it better to give them a chance to permanently change their lives for the better?’” he said.
But there are other benefits such as a stronger sense of partnership between two churches, Wolfe added.
Currently seven volunteers mentor 15 students enrolled in the self-paced program.
Nearing her completion of the program, Jamie Adams said with a GED, she is considering becoming a nursing assistant or going into business management. “The program has really helped me,” she said.
House said although it is a new ministry, “I feel that if just the two or three graduate in the short term, it is all worth it.”
Anyone is welcome to participate in the program. It first offers participants a chance to take an assessment test to see where they need to work the most. From that point, mentors guide the students through each level, making sure every participant understands the information.
Not only do the participants benefit from the program but the volunteers also agree that mentoring is a rewarding experience.
Regina Kanne — a member of First, Silverhill, and graduate student at the University of South Alabama — said, “It feels really good when they reach that milestone and get one step closer to earning their GED.”
Wanda Patterson, education coordinator for Baldwin Association, said the partnership of First, Silverhill, and Silverhill Covenant is the only one to offer a GED program in the association, and because of the great need for this type of education ministry, she hopes other churches will begin a similar program.
For more information about the Silverhill GED program, call 251-945-5182.
This article is reprinted from the April 9, 2009, issue of “The Alabama Baptist“: