Accelerating Opportunity Grad Earns International Job
Date: April 3, 2015
A year ago, Erik Duarte was only dreaming of completing the GED exam, earning a college degree, and following a career path. He had left high school and worked a series of jobs around Athens. A move to North Dakota led to a job in the oil fields working 80 to 100 hours per week. Upon returning to Athens, Duarte realized that if he had devoted that much time to working, he could certainty allot time each week toward his education. Today he has earned those credentials along with a prime job with Häring.
Twice in the past, Duarte had started to attend GED courses. Each time there were obstacles prohibiting him from completing. Duarte said this time was different. He was motivated by wanting to set a good example for his nephew and a new program at Athens Technical College would be able to remove some of the obstacles that had blocked him in the past.
Athens Technical College has partnered with Jobs for the Future to launch the Accelerating Opportunity program for Adult Education students. Accelerating Opportunity provides support to nontraditional students as they complete GED courses alongside postsecondary education. The program provides funding for college tuition, text books, transportation, and other items necessary for students to attend classes. Success coaches, advisors, and counselors are also on hand to support these students.
“The Accelerating Opportunity career pathway program removes barriers that many students face when working toward earning a GED diploma and college credentials,” according to Stephanie Benson, vice president for Adult Education. “A student in the Accelerating Opportunity program must be motivated and willing to devote time to classes and studying,” said Duarte. “I was ready to focus on education, so this worked for me.”
While working as a machinist at McCann Aerospace on the weekends, Duarte completed classes and earned his GED diploma. He was also enrolled in the Machine Tool Technology program where he earned two Technical Certificates of Credit. The combination of Adult Education classes coupled with college Machine Tool Technology courses gave him the ability to apply what he was learning to tangible skills. Duarte was recently hired by Häring, a German-based auto parts manufacturer. He was chosen during a competitive selection process to attend a three-year training program at the company’s German headquarters. Along with four other Athens Technical College students, Duarte is receiving specialized training and gaining leadership skills – along with learning German – in order to work in a leadership role when Häring opens their new manufacturing facility in Hartwell.
Duarte credits the faculty and staff at Athens Technical College for a large part of his success. Adult Education instructors, the Accelerating Opportunity Success Coach, support staff, and college instructors worked together to make his dream a reality. Above all, Duarte wants to inspire other to pursue their education and follow their dreams.
“My hope is to inspire others to go back of earn their GED diploma and to attend college,” said Duarte. “I want them to say ‘if he can do it, I can do it.’”
About Accelerating Opportunity at Athens Technical College
The Accelerating Opportunity initiative at Athens Technical College (AO Athens) combines accelerated career training and job placement with personalized educational support. The program is committed to helping adults get the training and skills they need today to get the jobs they want tomorrow. By offering students the chance to work on their GED credential while taking college credit classes, AO Athens is rethinking traditional adult education by removing barriers that prevent adults from entering and completing their education. AO Athens participants are eligible for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) support services, including reimbursement for daily transportation, childcare, tuition, book, and program expenses. For additional information about AO Athens, call (706) 583-2528.
Photo Caption: Prior to leaving for Germany, Erik Duarte (center), spoke with the Athens Technical College Backpack Bridge Club about his experiences in the Accelerating Opportunity program.