The face of adult education in Kansas is changing as rapidly as the demographics of the typical student enrolled in the program, educators said.

“People often associate adult education with just getting your GED [General Education Diploma], but it is so much more than that,” Krista Clay, co-coordinator of the Eastern Kansas Adult Education program, said. “Especially with the state’s emphasis on combining adult education academic and technology skills into the same program.”

Ottawa school district participates in the Eastern Kansas Adult Education program through the Neosho County Community College campus in Ottawa.

“We see more people taking advantage of adult education programs to brush up on technology and academic skills that will prepare them for the workforce,” Clay said. “We have students who range in age from 16 to 60.”

Clay and Jennifer Anderson, co-coordinators of the program, said those job training skills could apply to students who are looking to enter the workforce for the first time, seeking a better paying position at their current job or choosing a different career path.

“The adult education program also can help students who want to further their educations and pursue a degree,” Clay said. “That’s a point of emphasis for our program.”

Orientation and enrollment for the next round of Eastern Kansas Adult Education sessions for Ottawa area students will begin Tuesday at Neosho County’s Ottawa campus, 900 E. Logan St.

For more information, call Neosho at (785) 242-2067, or go to The Learning Center at Neosho’s Ottawa campus. The adult education program’s Neosho instructors in Ottawa are Sandi Lingerfelt, ext. 349, or Joshua Furnish, ext. 350. For those not prepared to enroll Tuesday, the next orientation and enrollment will begin March 5.

The three-day orientation includes an assessment of each student’s current academic and technology skill levels.

“We had an 89-year-old woman talk with us about enrolling in the program,” Furnish said. “She wants to brush up on her skills.”

The program’s six-week class sessions meet Monday through Thursday, with sessions being offered at 9 a.m. 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., the coordinators said.

“At the orientation, we tell people it is very important to attend these sessions, just like if they were going to a job every day,” Clay said. “Students progress at their own pace, but it is important they attend each class, or they will miss out on that day’s instruction.”

The cost of the session is $25, which is a one-time materials fee, Clay said.

“If it takes a person longer than six weeks to complete the session, we aren’t going to charge them again,” Clay said. “But if a person comes for a week and then drops out for three months and comes back, then we would charge that person again.”

Persons interested in obtaining a GED will receive instruction during the six-week course to help them prepare to take the GED’s timed battery of five tests in language arts-writing, language arts-reading, science, social studies and mathematics, Clay said. Students who successfully complete the GED test will receive a Kansas State High School diploma, she said.

The Ottawa school board voted 4-2 in March to join the Eastern Kansas Adult Education consortium — formerly known as the SouthEast Kansas Adult Education program — and move the school district’s program to Neosho’s Ottawa campus. Neosho’s two campuses in Chanute and Ottawa are part of the consortium, which formed in July 2010. The other consortium members are Fort Scott Community College, Coffeyville Community College (serving Coffeyville and Columbus), Labette Community College and Independence Community College.

The Ottawa school board’s decision to contract with Neosho for the 2012-13 fiscal school year, beginning July 1, ended a six-year relationship with the Paola-Osawatomie-Ottawa Adult Education consortium.

Directors of the Paola-Osawatomie-Ottawa consortium said last spring the program served about 130 to 140 Ottawa area students each year. Some people who were critical of moving the program predicted a dramatic decline in numbers if it switched to Neosho.

But Clay and Anderson reported Thursday they didn’t see a big decline. The program served 40 students this fall in its first semester of existence, and they expected equal or better numbers this spring. If that occurs, the program is on pace to serve 80 to 100 students in its first year at Neosho.

That news pleased Dean Katt, Ottawa schools superintendent.

“I think we made a good decision to move the program,” Katt said. “Everything I’ve heard this year about the program has been positive. I think the students are having success, and some of them have decided to go on to further their education. I’m very pleased.”

Ottawa school district pays a half mill in its budget for the program, or about $56,000. Katt estimated last spring that moving the program to Neosho would save the school district about $9,600.

In addition to offering training to obtain a GED, the adult education program offers students a chance to brush up on their reading, writing, mathematics and problem-solving skills through a variety of methods and “real life” scenarios, according to a pamphlet about the program. Anderson said students could choose to work on one or all of these skills.

Students will build or renew their basic technology skills by using the Internet-based modules with the Teknimedia education program and will earn a certificate of achievement, according to the program’s literature.

Students also will learn job-interviewing skills and how to develop a résumé, the program’s coordinators said.

Clay said she tells students obtaining their GED is just the first step in the journey.

“A counselor meets one-on-one with each student to talk with them about their goals, and then map out a plan to help them achieve those goals,” Clay said.

Anderson and Clay said the adult education program is not only designed to help people better their educations but also to raise their self-esteem, and is really a system of support for the students to help put them on the road to furthering their education and gain employment.

“When I was an adult education teacher, I had a student who had doubts. She had people telling her she couldn’t get her education,” Clay said. “But she went through the program, got her GED, went on to get her bachelor’s degree and now she’s going to be a teacher.

“Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it,” Clay said. “This adult education program can help people, who have either dropped out of school or just want to improve their skill levels, start on the right path. It’s about taking that first step.”   

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at