It may not be the first place a person would go to get their high school diploma, but last Friday’s ceremony at the county jail celebrated the accomplishment of two young women, and a young man, who earned their GED while they were there.
On Feb. 10, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office conducted a a sort of commencement at the jail for Savannah Shiver, 22; Trenton Shiver, 19; and Emily Seger, 22, marking the department’s first graduation of students it helped train for passage of the general education diploma requirements.
The ceremony, conducted by instructors Stacie De Vaughn and Leigh Smith., was witnessed by numerous family and friends.
“The program is voluntary but is a great start for people to turn their lives around,” said Sheriff A.J. Smith.
The GED program at the jail has been done “off and on with the jail,” over the years, beginning with Sheriff Mike Mock, said Nick O’Grady, who oversees the adult education program for the Franklin County Schools.
“There’s always been excitement to do it,” he said. “But when the state said you had to pay a fee it really went downhill. It was really difficult.
“We tried and we had some interests and we had some paid for,” said O’Grady.
The state requires students to pay a fee of $28.50 per semester, and when the time comes to take the four required tests,- math, science, history and reading-writing history - each one costs $32.
“They either got donations, or got the money themselves,” said O’Grady. “Sometimes the parents paid the $28.50.”
Presently, the district’s overall GED program is funded by the Florida Department of Education, with Career Source workforce monies. O’Grady said the FCS/FCSO GED program is in need of donations for the state mandated fees and testing costs. Money can be donated to Franklin County School for the FCS/FCSO GED Program.
As it stands now, instructor Leigh Smith teaches adult GED for the general community on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the high school. Stacie DeVaughn and sometimes math teacher Elizabeth Billingsley, as needed, handle the work at the jail, four nights a week.
Lt. David Varnes and Sgt. Fred Register have been instrumental in overseeing, scheduling and monitoring this program.
The inmates begin the program while incarcerated and if they haven’t earned their GED by their release date, they can continue working with FCS Adult Education on the FCS campus in the evenings with Smith.
“They (those in adult education) are mainly young, they’re in their high teens or 20s,” said O’Grady. “I haven’t seen any 60-year-olds, but we don’t turn them down. We take them.”
He said the task is easier “the closer they are from the time they were removed from high school.”
He said the instructors begin by having the students tackle the subject they found easiest while they were in school.
“Then if it’s history, then that’s the first test we prepare for,” O’Grady said. “We want them to build momentum. The older they are, we ask them the same question. They have to get acclimated back to school-type stuff.”