East Central College is working with a nonprofit organization in rural Crawford County to provide easy access to High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) preparation classes.
That’s according to Alice Whalen, Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program director, who has been working with Mission Gate Prison Ministry at two of its facilities — Hannah’s Ranch and Fort Good Shepherd Ranch.
Mission Gate is a residential program for men and women recently released from prison or rehabilitation. The organization provides clean and safe housing, along with necessities to help the residents transition back into society.
Whalen said ECC assisted in providing the classes at both the facilities, which makes it logistically easier for the students and helps them focus on their education.
“This is giving us the opportunity to reach students who might not normally be able to attend classes,” she said.
Fort Good Shepherd Ranch
Joshua Hemmings, peer support specialist and case manager at Fort Good Shepherd Ranch, said Mission Gate reached out to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) seeking assistance in bringing the HiSET (formerly called GED) classes to their locations.
DESE contacted Whalen who also serves as the volunteer director of the East Central Area Literacy Council.
According to Whalen, the Literacy Council provides the training to teach the HiSET prep courses for the on-site facilitators. In this situation the facilitators are case managers at Hannah’s Ranch and Fort Good Shepherd Ranch.
Mary Eagan, AEL instructor coordinator at ECC, trained the case managers to be on-site facilitators for Mission Gate Ministries.
Hemmings added that there are other HiSET classes offered nearby in Cuba and other communities, but many of the residents at Fort Good Shepherd Ranch work odd hours and attend program classes at the ranch.
“It became so hard for the guys who were working overnight,” he said. “That kept a lot of them from going — having classes on site helps eliminate the barriers.”
Laura Kreysman, program director at Hannah’s Ranch, added that residents can work remotely to access the HiSET classes, which limits distractions.
“They focus so much better while they are here,” Kreysman said. “While they are here, there is staff around to help them.”
Whalen explained that the case managers work with AEL instructors via video conferencing or phone to provide the assistance.
“The flexibility to work remotely has provided us more options,” she said.
“Because of what we learned through the COVID pandemic, we have been able to utilize the remote methods,” Whalen added.
Kreysman noted that by taking the prep courses, with the goal of passing the HiSET the residents can pursue a better career than without it.
She added that better educated residents can also help their children with homework and set a better example for them.
Right now, there are three residents at Fort Good Shepherd Ranch taking HiSET prep classes and two residents at Hannah’s ranch are enrolled in the orientation slated for December.
To learn more about ECC’s HiSET prep courses and the AEL program, visit www.eastcentral.edu/ael/.