Getting a new lease on life

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 22, 2009



GARYVILLE—St. John Parish officials joined school and community leaders Monday morning to dedicate an old school building for a new purpose.

The Garyville Elementary School building, once home to the school system’s redirection center, is the new location for the school system’s Adult Education Center.

The school building, which dates back to the 1950s and was once used as a shelter during Hurricane Betsy, has a colorful history that was recounted by a handful of residents who came out for the dedication ceremony.

“This building holds a very special meaning to me,” said longtime St. John Parish educator Alexia Henderson. “I was one of two black teachers to integrate the faculty at the school in the 1960s. I’m so glad the school board retained the building.”

State Rep. Nickie Monica, who attended the school through sixth grade, also said he was proud to see the building still in use for such a valuable purpose.

“Without education, you cannot get very far in life,” said Monica. “This building is a testament to the statement that you are never too old to continue your education.”

Precious Joseph, director of the Adult Education Center, said when she first arrived to lead the center, she saw the broken down building as depressing. Over time, she said, as repairs were getting made and she spent more time inside, the old building began to embrace her.

“This building is going to become a proud part of the Garyville Historic District,” Joseph said. “I feel like we have been invested with a purpose to endure that our community is available to educate anyone who wants to learn.”

Before moving to the elementary school, Joseph explained that the Adult Education Center was operating out of a single classroom at East St. John High. Since the announcement of the move and the expanded services, Joseph said enrollment jumped by a considerable margin.

“We had nearly 40 people just walk in and sign up for classes,” Joseph said. “We typically have just 30 or 40 who go through the program every year. With all the new students coming in, we are also planning to hold a graduation ceremony at the end of the school year in May.”

Offerings at the new site include daytime classes in literacy, math, writing and GED preparation. Joseph said there are also classes for adults wishing to learn English as a second language. All classes are provided free of charge.

The GED program is open to anyone 17 or older who has not completed high school and is not currently enrolled in school.

Interested students may also dual-enroll in afternoon classes at the Louisiana Technical College if they are able to meet the college’s enrollment criteria. Although the GED program is free, students who elect to take these college courses must pay their own tuition for the college courses.

Classes are held in Garyville Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. There are also evening classes at East St. John High School on Wednesday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.