BALTIMORE (WJZ)–It is almost graduation day for a group of students at the South Baltimore Learning Center.

As Gigi Barnett explains, the school is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Inside the South Baltimore Learning Center, some students need one-on-one help, while others work alone. But all of them have one common goal: to receive a high school diploma.

“Usually when they come here, they find success. We are the top performing program in Baltimore City right now,” said Sonia Socha, executive director.

Socha runs the center for adults who dropped out of school. Now they’re back in class at a time when the center is celebrating its 20 anniversary.

Socha says over the years the reasons for earning a GED have changed–thanks to the economy.

“Eighteen years ago, people came here because they also still wanted to improve themselves, but they could still get a job then without a high school credential,” Socha said. “Today, not so much.” 

Karis Shortlidge and her 21-year-old son, Josh, earned their diplomas at the same time.

Shortlidge dropped out of school more than 20 years ago. She decided to teach her son the value of education by enrolling. She aced the GED exam on the first try, and now the pair will graduate next week.

“I have more respect for people who come here because that means you’re willing to further it,” Josh said. “When in high school, you’re pushed through.”

Baltimore has about 120,000 people without a high school diploma. So, there is a need. But after 20 years of service, the program’s coordinator says the biggest challenge now is finding funding at a time when everyone is cutting back.

“It’s all trickle down effect,” Socha said. “This is something that both the government and private individuals, companies should invest in.”

The South Baltimore Learning Center enrolls 1,000 students every year and offers a couple of graduation ceremonies.


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