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Record 19 graduate from High School Equivalency Program

2020-02-17-HEP-graduation
A record 19 students received their high school GED in one semester thanks to the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at the University of North Georgia.

For nearly four years, Christian Bello Escobar has watched nontraditional students earn their General Educational Development (GED) certificate thanks to the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at the University of North Georgia (UNG).

But the graduation ceremony in January 2020 was a little more special. A record 19 students received their high school GED in one semester. Bello Escobar, director of Migrant Programs and Services and director of HEP and College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), hopes 10 more graduate in July.

"This is something to celebrate," he said.

HEP students are migrant and/or seasonal farm workers and members of their immediate family who do not have a GED. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the program offers them free textbooks and materials, GED testing, career readiness workshops, financial assistance, and flexible class schedules. Classes are taught in English and Spanish, allowing Spanish-speakers to learn the material in their native language as state allows the GED to be taken in Spanish.

Nallely Guerrero, associate director of HEP, said the 19 graduates highlight two things about the program.

"The staff puts a lot of effort into helping our students," she said. "And the students dedicate and push themselves to make it."

Bello Escobar said he plans to expand HEP, noting it needs more resources and funding to serve the burgeoning population in Gainesville and Hall County. He said this year a full-time instructor has been hired to help.

"In our next grant cycle, we plan to ask for increased funding and thus, an increase in classes and additional resources," he said.

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