Blog--The Faces of ACE

GED® classes opened doors
to nursing for Mei Lin

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Nearly 15 years ago, ACE almuna Mei Lin started GED® classes that opened up doors to education and a career in nursing

By: Emily Laxton

June 1, 2018

            For former student Mei Lin, the Adult Community and Education School, otherwise known as ACE, became the door through which she found her Great Start for a Better Future.

Mei was born in Sujin, China in the early 1980s. She lived and grew up in China until she was 17-years-old. When she reached 10th grade, Mei learned that she would soon be moving to the United States to work in the restaurant business with no family alongside her. Following this news, she dropped out of her high school in China in order to start preparing for the move to the U.S.

When Mei first moved to the U.S., she moved to San Francisco. Once there, she enrolled in an American high school. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before she found herself dropping out again and preparing for another move across the country. The next stop along her journey brought her to New York City where she lived shortly before moving to Crawfordville, Florida and then later to Tallahassee.

Mei moved to Crawfordville when she was 18. With no high school diploma under her belt, she found her employment opportunities to be quite limited. She began working for a family-owned restaurant. While Mei was grateful l to have an income, she knew that this was not the career path she wanted to continue on.

A customer in the restaurant invited Mei to participate in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes offered at her church, First Baptist Crawfordville.  Mei, who had learned how to read English when she attended school in China, had little experience with actually speaking it, and was eager to get in the classes.

After making great progress in the ESOL classes, Mei’s teacher told her about Adult and Community Education School, also known as ACE, and the GED® classes so she could earn a high school diploma. Mei figured this would be the perfect place to get a high school diploma and open up doors full of possibilities she had never before imagined.

Mei began taking GED® classes at ACE in Tallahassee in 2003 at the age of 20. During this time, she continued to work at the restaurant while studying for school and preparing to take the GED® test. Just a year later, in 2004, Mei passed all part of the GED® test and earned her high school diploma.

Following this success, Mei began her undergraduate career at Tallahassee Community College (TCC). After her first year there, she transferred to Valencia Community College in Orlando. There, she received her A.S. degree. While living in Orlando she met her husband and the two married in 2007.

In 2009, Mei and her husband returned to Tallahassee. That same year, Mei began the nursing program at FSU. She graduated from FSU with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). With this degree, she was able to become a registered nurse (RN) and has been a nurse for nine years. When asked what made her want to go into the field of nursing, Mei said she, “loves helping people and helping them get better.”

Mei worked at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) for 8 years and recently started working at Select Specialty Hospital in the cardiac intensive care unit. She typically works 3-4 days a week from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. While the shifts are long, she enjoys that she gets to spend the days she has off with her husband and their two children, a 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

While she has already come a long way, Mei wants to continue her education in the field of nursing. This August, she will begin working toward her master’s degree in the Nurse Anesthesia Program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Upon completion of this degree, she aspires to one day get a PhD in nurse anesthesia.

Looking back, Mei admits that this career that she loves so much would not have been possible if it weren’t for ACE. When asked where she would be today if she had not come to ACE, Mei said she would probably still be working in the restaurant business, a path her family had chosen for her. While they were not supportive of her educational pursuit, she found all of the encouragement she needed among her ACE family.

Mei needed a school like ACE with flexible and non-traditional schooling options in order to accomplish her academic goals. Mei recommends ACE to anyone who needs these same accommodations. ACE is the place where doors began to open for Mei!



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Kulthum is excited to attend both
ACE GED® and ESOL classes that help
'expand her mind'
By: Emily Laxton
April 1, 2018

Thirty-six-year-old Kulthum Shabazz has learned that her greatest uncertainties in life have become her greatest “blessings.”

Kulthum, otherwise known simply as “K”, is an American immigrant who moved from Kenya to the United States in May 2004 at the age of 22. She had no idea she would one day move to America. Kalthum thought she was going live in Kenya the rest of her life, finish school, get married, have kids, and become a housewife. Little did she know how different her life was about to become.

When Kulthum was in her early twenties, her sister’s online friend introduced her to Ari, her future husband. Ari was an American living in the United States while she was still living in Kenya. The two talked by phone every weekend for more than six months. After that time, he flew to Kenya to meet Kulthum in person for the first time. It wasn’t long after this that the two of them married in Kenya and began the process for her to move to the United States. After several months, Kulthum moved to America to live with her husband.

Kulthum first lived in Memphis, Tennessee, then Portland, Oregon and eventually moved to Tallahassee in 2007. Over the course of those three years, Kulthum slowly adjusted to her new country. She had to adapt to the English language. Her native language is Swahili and though she had learned some English while living in Kenya, she needed more practice to become proficient. In addition, Kulthum found herself with more free time since moving to the United States. Ari was working during the day and since she had no job she often got bored while he was away. She shared with him how she was feeling and that was when Ari encouraged her to come to Adult & Community Education School, also known as ACE.

In 2017, Kulthum enrolled in the advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class as well as a GED® class. Since she’s been at ACE, Kulthum has learned a great deal. Not only have her English skills improved but she also has the opportunity to pursue a high school education and earn a diploma, something she was not afforded when she lived in Kenya.

Kulthum says the educational opportunities in Kenya and in America are as different as night and day. In Kenya, Kulthum only completed school through the eighth grade. High school in Kenya is like college in America, in that those who enroll in it have to pay hefty tuition prices. Many Kenyans cannot afford to pay the cost of education and therefore stop their formal education after middle school. Kulthum says the focus of education is primarily on the subjects of reading and writing. Had she continued to live in Kenya, Kulthum knew she would have virtually no way to get a job with her education level. She is so thankful to live in the U.S. because it has given her the ability to go to school and learn far more than she ever would have been able to in Kenya.

The appreciation of this opportunity is what drives Kulthum to come to ACE every day excited and ready to learn. When asked why she loves coming to ACE so much she responded, “I love to expand my mind,” and she has done just that since she started here. Kulthum has gone beyond her former educational background of just reading and writing and has begun to delve into other subjects. Her favorites are science and history. Whenever she has questions, her teachers are right there to answer them. She said of her teachers, “(they) are very friendly, nice, and willing to help me anytime.”

Kulthum said after she passes the GED® test and earns her high school diploma, she hopes to continue her education. She plans to pursue a career in the nursing field where she can help others, something she is passionate about.

For Kulthum, ACE is not just a place where she comes to learn. ACE has become the foundation for opportunities she knew she would never have been given if she still lived in Kenya. Kulthum says she would recommend ACE to anyone who desires to learn. The teachers are passionate about watching their students succeed.

Kulthum is thankful her husband encouraged her to enroll at ACE and she feels “so blessed” to be here. While her life has played out far different than she ever imagined it would, Kulthum has found there is beauty and happiness in the unknown.

Life can be unpredictable. It’s full of twists and turns, many of which we anticipate but even more we never see coming. For Kulthum, these unexpected moments were overwhelming at first, she said, but eventually they have became the source from which her abundant joy flows.

 

Fatima finds U.S., ACE her start for a better life

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Fatima Said, a Lebanese immigrant, writes the name of her home country in her English for Speakers of Other Language Class at ACE. She has found the U.S. and ACE to be the help she needed for a great start for a better future! Read her story below. Fatima has found help from her teacher, Charlie Greenwell, below, and encouragement from both Greenwell and new friends in her class. 
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by Emily Laxton

April 3, 2018


            For Fatima Said, education isn’t just an individual pursuit; it’s a family affair.

            In October 2016, Fatima and her family moved from Lebanon to the United States for a shot at a better life. With her she brought along her husband of 23 years and their four children, three girls and one boy. They moved directly to Tallahassee from Lebanon and have been living here since.

            Like any move, this one came with some sizable adjustments. While living in Lebanon, Fatima often saw her family so when she first moved to the U.S. she missed being close to her parents. To complicate things further, she had very limited experience with speaking English. Though she had learned some English while in elementary school, she primarily spoke in Arabic, her native language.

As a mother of four children, though, Fatima wasn’t the only one undergoing a major transition. Each of her kids had to leave behind the life and the friends that they had known in Lebanon and establish a new normal here. This included receiving formal education which two of her children chose to pursue at Adult and Community Education School, otherwise known as ACE.

Fatima’s 20-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter enrolled in GED® classes at ACE so that they could receive their high school diplomas. After starting at ACE, her children learned that the school provides English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes in addition to GED® classes. They told Fatima about this opportunity and encouraged her to enroll so that she could learn and practice her English.

Fatima, excited by this opportunity, began taking ESOL classes in October 2017 and has been making great strides since. Since starting at ACE, her English has improved a great deal, especially her grammar. While she has certainly worked hard to achieve this, she also credits her teacher, Charlie Greenwell, for her success. She said she loves Mr. Greenwell and that he, “explains things well and will repeat questions as many times as I need.” Not only has she found encouragement in Mr. Greenwell but she has also found it in her classmates. She said that they have become more than just her classmates, they have become her friends.

Fatima’s learning isn’t confined to the classroom, though. When she’s not at school she tries to find different methods of practicing her English. One of her favorite ways to do this is by watching American films. Not only is it entertaining but it’s also educational, a balance Fatima finds appealing. When she’s not watching movies, she’s often taking care of her children. As a stay- at- home mom, Fatima often finds time to practice English with her children such as when she helps her 10-year-old daughter with her homework.

            Though Fatima has only been at ACE for five months, she has already made remarkable progress. While she hopes to finish ESOL classes within the next year, she has no plans of leaving ACE anytime soon. After completing ESOL classes, Fatima wants to enroll in GED® classes at ACE so that she can receive a high school diploma of her own. With this diploma, she hopes to get a job somewhere and maybe even move on to pursue an associate’s degree from Tallahassee Community College like her 22-year-old daughter.

 Education is very important to Fatima and her family. She is thankful that she has had the opportunity to study at ACE along with two of her children. She recommends ACE to anyone who is looking to improve their English. ACE has not only become her great start for a better future but her family’s great start for a better future as well.  


Seventeen-year-old Jameel finds
a fresh start and confidence at ACE
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Jameel Pye, pictured above, expresses his excitement about his future and is shown with his teachers Jason Herman, above, and Noal Weiland, right.
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by Emily Laxton
March 1, 2018
For seventeen- year-old Jameel Pye, the 2017- 2018 school year is a year of a new beginning and a fresh start.

In January of 2017, Jameel moved from Chicago to Florida. While living in Chicago, he attended a traditional high school. Like many high school students, he struggled to find a balance between his school work and his social life. Over time, the work load became too much causing him to fall behind. In addition to this, he found himself hanging out with friends that were not encouraging him in his academic career but rather distracting him from it. He said he was, “caught between a mix of people who cared about school and people who didn’t.”

Last January, Jameel experienced a change of pace when he moved to Tallahassee to live with his father. During this transition, he enrolled in online classes for school. He thought this route might be a better fit for him than the traditional high school setting. Unfortunately, he found it difficult to push himself to the do the work since it was on his own time. 

After having little success in online classes, Jameel’s father encouraged him to enroll in GED® classes. With few options left, Jameel decided to do just that. He enrolled in GED® classes at Adult Community Education School, also known as ACE, in August 2017 and has been thriving ever since. Coming into ACE, Jameel had some reservations. He wondered what it would be like to sit in a classroom full of adults since he was used to attending school with peers only his age. He wasn’t sure how the dynamics in the classroom would differ from what he had previously known.

While these thoughts and uncertainties concerned him, he knew one thing was for sure- ACE was the place he needed to be to succeed. Unlike his previous high school and online classes, ACE has given him a place where he can work at his own pace with fewer distractions. Naturally, Jameel sometimes still finds himself struggling with his school work. Whenever he becomes discouraged, though, his teachers, Mr. Jason Herman and Ms. Noal Weiland, are right there to encourage him and push him to keep trying. 

Jameel is thankful to have as strong a support system outside of school as he does in it. He is constantly reminded by family members of how proud they are of him and are excited to see what his future holds. Jameel hopes to pass all parts of the GED® test this spring and graduate in May. After graduation, Jameel looks forward to starting the Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Heating Technology program at Lively Technical Center this Fall. 

When asked to imagine where he would be without ACE, Jameel was quite frank. He said he’d likely be on the streets or working a minimum wage job just trying to support himself. He doesn’t want this to be his future, he wants more, which is why he came to ACE.  Jameel knows that many people in a similar situation as his might be considering whether or not Adult Community Education School would be the right fit for them. To those people, he poses this question, “If it’s not going well, why continue in the traditional high school setting?” Education, including how and where you choose to receive it, is not one- size- fits- all. For those struggling in the traditional high school setting, though, ACE can provide an excellent alternative route.

For Jameel, ACE has done more than improve his academic work- it has had an even more profound effect on his mindset. Before ACE, he had no desire to go to school. Now, he comes to ACE every day excited and ready to learn. Ms. Weiland said, “He is a great role model for consistency and perseverance to the students around him.” He has discovered a newfound confidence within himself and all that he is capable of because he said he has learned, “when you apply yourself good things come.”

Our new campus and off-site locations will help us serve our students 

By Regina Browning, ACE Principal

September, 2017


This summer Adult & Community Education School has relocated our main campus to 526 Appleyard Drive, announced two new off-site locations and unveiled a new logo. We have experienced a whirlwind of change, but our mission remains the same. In fact, our new locations will help us better serve adults 16 and older who need to earn a high school diploma, learn English or make up a core high school class to stay on track for graduation!

I am looking forward to welcoming our students to our new campus. A major advantage of our new location is we are in the education district near both Lively Technical Center and Tallahassee Community College (TCC).  More than half of the graduates from our GED® program immediately enroll in a post-secondary school, with Lively and TCC being the most popular schools our graduates attend.  We believe this proximity for students at our main campus will give them added opportunities to learn about classes and programs these schools offer that might interest them and help them in their future! 

Our new campus provides spacious classrooms for all of our programs and we are excited to open two new locations for GED® classes this year. This will allow us to offer GED® classes in ten locations throughout our community.

We will have morning, afternoon and evening classes in a building located on the Apalachee Tapestry Magnet School of the Arts campus.  This location is adjacent to our former campus on Trojan Trail and will be convenient for students who live on the east side of town.

We are opening morning classes, Tuesday through Thursday, at the Bradfordville Community Center, also known as the “One Room School House.”  This location at 6808 Beech Ridge Trail is near the Bannerman Road and Thomasville Road intersection. This class will function like all of our other off-site classes and I am particularly excited at how this historic location helps highlight some of the unique strengths of adult education.

Teachers in all of our off-site locations utilize some of the same teaching methods  used in the traditional one-room schoolhouses. They also have the advantages of utilizing laptops, the internet and computer-based software to guide individualized instruction for some students while the teacher guides instruction for others.  Through this method, adult education is able to tailor the learning experience to the individual students’ need.

In addition to new locations, ACE has a new logo. The new logo is a  mortarboard or graduation cap sitting on top of the planet Earth.  The graduation cap represents our GED® and High School Credit classes that help students earn a high school diploma.  The Earth represents the thousands of students we serve each year, often representing more than thirty different nations.

The new logo was designed with input from eight student focus groups.  The symbols represent what our school does and who we serve.   Students also said the planet represents how, with education, they have access to a world of opportunities.

Finally, I want to invite everyone to our ribbon cutting celebration at 11 a.m. Sept. 12.  Please continue to visit our website and social media accounts for more details and updates.