Originally published in Sundt.com by Sundt Foundation

In Bexar County, more than 35,000 youth and 300,000 adults do not have a high school diploma or GED, the high school equivalence certificate. The impacts on the San Antonio region include demands on social services, strains on the justice system and the loss of good jobs to places such as Austin because of that region’s better-educated workforce.

“There’s quite a bit of economic disparity and big pockets of poverty (in San Antonio),” said Restore Education Executive Director Kelli Rhodes, whose organization helps area youth complete a high school equivalency credential and college degrees after dropping out of school.

Restore Education has spent the past nine years providing adult education, college preparation and workforce connection services to more than 4,500 residents from San Antonio and surrounding areas of Bexar County. It’s the only organization in the region that offers an integrated General Education Development (GED) and college prep program to dropouts and provides continued support to graduates as they complete college. Participants attend classes at Restore Education’s learning center in central Bexar County or at one of its satellite sites.

The results are clear: Restore students are eight times more likely to earn college degrees than average GED graduates. Restore Education even covers the $170 cost of its participants taking the GED exam. Proceeds from a $2,150 grant from the Sundt Foundation helped cover some of those expenses.

“We offer an individualized adult education program,” Kelli said. “Each person gets his or her own learning plan and is connected to one of our staff. We pay for their tests and can connect them to resources to pay for bus passes and childcare.”

Kelli said students who participate in adult education programs can increase their yearly income by as much as $10,000. Moreover, being in an adult education program has a direct impact on the literacy of the students’ children. These students are also the first in their families to attend college.

“What I’ve learned is that all students left high school for a reason,” Kelli said. “It wasn’t because they didn’t want to be there. But they all willingly choose to come here to improve their employment and change their lives.

This is the second in a series of stories about non-profit organizations that were supported by the Sundt Foundation in 2016. The articles will appear on our blog on Tuesdays through May 23.