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Editorial: Adult education — a critical yet unrecognized need

Judy Fornier tells about a 16-year-old high school drop-out who came to her eager to get her life back on track. The girl was brilliant, says Fornier, and she worked with Project Lift to get her GED. She went on to get her MBA, eventually worked in Boston. Today, she’s a private consultant in her home state of New Hampshire. Fornier, the group’s director, also tells about an Antrim man who lost first his job and then his house. Long out of school and without a high school degree, the man had little hope of finding a job with a similar wage. With the help of Project Lift, the man earned his GED, found employment and is once again a homeowner.

These are the success stories that drive Fornier and the dedicated group at Project Lift. The nonprofit agency that focuses on adult learning is based in Hillsborough, but has been serving the Monadnock region for more than 20 years. Last year in conjunction with Southern New Hampshire Services Inc., Project Lift ran a weekly program in Peterborough, which served several towns in the region.

Because of the program’s long history of success and the growing need for adult education resources, the Ledger-Transcript has selected Project Lift as the 2012 recipient of an annual foundation grant from our parent company, Newspapers of New England. Fornier says the $1,500 will help the nonprofit better serve the Monadnock region. The funding will allow the program to continue in Peterborough for another year.

The funds, she said, will help her offset the dwindling support her group is receiving from many towns in the Monadnock region. Though she still gets solid backing in places like Hillsborough and Antrim, other towns have slowly started to pull back their financial support. “Many of the towns don’t understand how the program translates to people who are now going to be more productive and more able to support themselves,” said Fornier.

Years ago, Fornier says Project Lift served three basic needs — those trying to get the basic reading and math skills so they could better navigate their lives; those striving to attain their high school equivalency; and those learning English as a second language. Today, the face of those served by Project Lift has shifted and English as a second language students comprise a smaller share of those requesting help. Now, the vast majority is filled by the type of resident who used to be able to get by with a lower reading and math level or without that high school diploma. But times have changed, and the struggling economy has made it even more difficult to find a job.

When students reach out to Project Lift, they are assessed and they are put on a path for success. Even those who may never be able to attain a GED can still learn how to use a computer and how to fill out an online job application. And those who come for help with the GED can receive the type of tutoring that will allow them to pass a seven-hour exam filled with material many test-takers haven’t seen in decades. They’re new success stories just waiting to happen.

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