The YWCA’s most recent expansion, YWoodlawn, has grown exponentially since its groundbreaking in 2009. Initially consisting of the YWCA’s acquisition of the Interfaith Hospitality House, the YWoodlawn Revitalization Initiative is an ongoing effort that has transformed several acres of once blighted housing into an award-winning neighborhood. One of the newest additions to the wide array of programs has been the successful GED program that is tremendously improving and empowering the lives of those in the community.
One example of the GED program’s contribution is Geraldine, a 37-year-old mother of four and YWoodlawn GED student since October 2013. Every morning before class she gets her children ready for school and cares for her elderly mother. Geraldine has not only been an inspiration to her family but she is a model student to her peers whom she regularly helps and encourages in their own work.
The YWoodlawn GED program is a product of a partnership with Jefferson State Community College and tremendous financial support from PNC and Wells Fargo. After seeing the need to accommodate folks who have transporation trouble getting to campus, Jefferson State quickly embraced the idea of having a GED branch at YWoodlawn’s Family Resource Center. In addition to providing the YWCA with a tremendous library of printed resources and texts needed to execute the program, Jefferson State wrote a grant and was able to provide the YWCA with a tutor to work alonside hired professional teacher Connie O’Brien since day one. Together they offer a wonderful program that brings GED education and testing right to the YWoodlawn doorstep.
Like all of the programs at the YWCA’s Family Resource Center (FRC), the GED program is offered at no cost, first to YWCA residents living on the YWoodlawn Campus, secondly to all YWCA residents, thirdly to all Woodlawn residents and lastly, if there is room and interest, some space may be available to low-income individuals living just outside of Woodlawn or to those who have graduated from Interfaith or other YWCA programming/housing.
To attain a GED, each student begins by taking an exam to determine proficiency levels and where their work needs to begin by subject and grade level. From there students work four days a week for four hours each day at the YWCA’s FRC, reading, studying and taking practice tests. Recently, GED students went on a field trip to the Woodlawn Branch of the Birmingham Public Library where each student was given a tour of resources and research opportunities along with their own individual library cards—a first for many of the students!
Chief Housing Officer Jennifer Clarke is proud of the lives that have been improved by the program: “The YWCA’s GED program provides that important link for many folks who have, for any number of reasons, not finished their high school degree but now want to improve the kind of job they can get and the difference they can to make for themselves, their families and their community. This is the YWCA in action, empowering women and their families regardless of where they are on their journey.”
A big thank you goes out to Jefferson State and all who support YWoodlawn’s programs. Your love and compassion nourishes the ongoing success of a flourishing neighborhood.
If you would like donate or get involved with YWoodlawn or the YWCA’s many other programs, click here.