Jenny Butler

My name is Jenny Butler, and I’m very happy that I’ve been given the opportunity to share my experience from the GED program at Foothills Family Resources!
To give you a little background information about me, I was born in Greenville, SC, but I grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. My parents moved there to become missionaries when I was less than a year old. I was homeschooled, but my parents were both very busy with their work, so it was rare that they would have time to help me. Lacking the discipline I needed to do the work on my own, I quickly fell behind. The last grade I completed was 5th grade, and that became my biggest insecurity.
When I was almost 13 years old, my family received a serious threat from a drug cartel and we were forced to move back to SC overnight. I attempted to continue homeschooling, but my parents were busier than ever, scrambling to find new jobs and a house for us.
By the time I was around 16 years old, I had finally given up on school. My parents had skipped me through to 9th grade, but I never even made it halfway through. I was humiliated. I remember having a lot of ambition in the past, but then I found myself working in a restaurant 7 days a week with very little to show for it, and in my mind that was as good as it was going to get for me. Any job better than that felt like such a distant reality. It was almost exhausting just trying to imagine it.
When I turned 19, I tried going to two different GED schools, but neither of them helped me move forward. I needed something with structure and someone to guide me every step of the way, but those places didn’t offer that.
A year later, my dad suggested I go to the Foothills Family Resources (FFR) GED class. I already felt like I was at the lowest point in my life at that time and the last thing I wanted to do was deal with the embarrassment of another failure. It took days of convincing before I actually gave in and agreed to go just to humor my dad. I had been out of school so long, the possibility of actually passing the tests didn’t even cross my mind.
I walked in the classroom reluctantly and spoke with the teachers, Karen and Jeff. I could instantly see that they genuinely cared about helping us students. Throughout each class, I was amazed at how they gave each individual the attention we needed. They really encouraged us to ask questions when we had them and they pushed us to do our best. I found myself passing one test after the other until I only had one left before I would officially graduate! After being weighed down by this for so long, I actually felt completely capable of achieving this goal for the first time in years!
In between tests, I was also going through the Center for Working Families program that FFR provides, where my counselor, Paula, was helping me prepare for life after I graduated. She helped me with things like building a resume, practicing for job interviews, and setting a budget, among other things.
A few days prior to taking my last test, the Center for Working Families program Coordinator, Kristen, and Executive Director, David, called me into the office before class. I was nervous, thinking they were about to tell me that I was in trouble for something. Much to my surprise, I was offered a job instead! I was so happy, I agreed to it before they even told me what the job was!
My life has changed drastically since I walked into the GED class that first day. I’ve been working here for over a year now and I’m still just as thrilled being the Intake Coordinator for FFR as I was the day after I passed my final GED test. I’m eternally grateful to every single person at Foothills Family Resources for helping me along the way!


Lifelong Learning

“Greenville County School District is pleased to partner with Foothills Family Resources to provide a satellite campus location for the Lifelong Learning GED program at Slater.  Two certified teachers provide instruction in the four subject areas–math, science, language arts, and social studies–tested on the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test.  The school day is divided into subject periods so students receive instruction in each subject daily.

Many adult learners who seek to earn their diploma had negative experiences in a traditional high school setting.  The teachers work to provide a positive, encouraging environment for those choosing to return to school.  Most students enjoy the small class size and individualized instruction and the program achieves an excellent success rate for those students who stay and attend classes regularly.  Many students sing the praises of the program citing actual instruction from a teacher rather than a computerized tutorial type program.  The students are taught as a group, but as students either stand out for being advanced or needing remediation, individualized instruction is provided as well.  The average amount of classroom time it takes for a student to graduate, one who comes regularly and is committed to working for the diploma, is four months, with some students graduating in a matter of weeks, and others who need to make up background skills they missed in a regular school setting taking longer .

In addition to academic classes, the students work to earn their WIN career readiness credential.  A WIN certificate informs a potential employer at what workforce skill level the employee is capable of performing.  For large corporations, this certificate helps the graduates stand out among other applicants who may not have this credential on their resumes.  The preparation reinforces the work needed to earn the GED so it is a win-win program.  If a student scores at least a silver level WIN certificate, in addition to a couple other requirements, he or she can apply to the state department of education for funding for the actual GED test.  This helps most students who cannot afford the cost of taking the test.

A major component of the program is the partnership with Foothills Family Resources and the Center for Working Families Program.  Transition coaches work one-on-one with students as they prepare for graduation.  The coaches offer counsel in such relevant areas as money management, job interview preparation, and resume writing.  If a student does not have the clothing that would be needed for a job interview, he or she can choose two outfits from the clothes closet (donated work attire) at Foothills Family Resources.  On the days students meet with their transition coach, they are required to come dressed as though they were coming for a job interview.  Many express pride in their own appearance and the pride is revealed in their bearing in class that day.  Additionally, students have received free haircuts from a professional stylist and one student received help with obtaining dental work. She proudly returned to show the teachers and coaches her new smile.

The partnership between Greenville County Schools Lifelong Learning and Foothills Family Resources has been and will continue to be beneficial to not only the students but to the community as a whole. As graduates improve their lives and become productive members of the workforce, the cycle of generational poverty ends and the chance for prosperity is passed on to their children.”

Written by Karen Cleveland, GED Language Arts and Social Studies teacher here at Foothills Family Resources.