Somewhere far in a distant land…

In my GED – Generation Y class, I urge the students to use their imagination to create great essays, poems and stories. Here’s an assignment I found on the Newspapers in Education site. I liked it because it related the assignment to a movie seen by the majority of the class, while allowing them to be creative. Below the description are snippets of the students’ creative writings.

The science-fiction epic “Avatar” takes places in a fictional world called Pandora. Director James Cameron spent years fine-tuning all the details of Pandora and its inhabitants, the Na’vi. Come up with your own plan for a science fiction or fictional land. Describe what it would look like and what kind of creatures would inhabit it. Would they look like people, or totally different?

I’d create a land of peace, called Peaceland. It has a population of 13 million. That’s New York City and Los Angeles put together! It will be sitting under sunny skies all year-long, averaging 70 degrees. When you look around, all you see are buildings as tall as the World Trade Center and even higher. You will see palm trees everywhere. Streets are long and it will take hours to get downtown. The city will be 125 miles long and wide. Just imagine: you would have to fly a plane to get to the other side of the city. The neighborhoods are clean and the houses are mansions. The land is so rich, the people pay their God with peace, love and loyalty.

The people speak a different language called Nuke. But when they talk, they can catch on quickly. But what’s more crazy is they have tails and can run speeds up to 60 miles per hour and won’t get tired. They don’t need cars! The people have Indian-like hair with skin similar to human beings. They breathe the same air as humans and have super strengths. They survive off of water and palm tree leaves. Their lifestyle is very peaceful;  no job, no recession, just spending time with your family. The land of Peace is not ran by a government. A God named Dar looks down on the land, protecting and giving it peace 24 hours a day. When you look into the sky, you can see him smiling down on you. Living in a big city can be difficult but not here. The people are very friendly; there’s no violence and at night, the sky looks like Las Vegas!

– Darryl Coleman


The year is 2050. The planet is called Hendrix Valley and double the size of Earth. One side is land, the other is water. It has a population of 350,000 people, not including animals. The people on land have a special gene that gave 50 percent of the culture lime green feathered wings. Some even say the color of the wings change depending on the person’s mood. The chosen few that have wings are called Fly-Hue. There is a total of 20,000 people with this gene because it skips a generation. The Fly-Hue look similar to humans but have bird beaks and long red and purple dreads. The people without wings are called the Wingless. They are human with one special ability – they can see 12 hours into the future. The water side is covered with mythical creatures that look like lochness monsters. The Fly-Hues and Wingless are very smart and peaceful. They believe that music is the influence of all that is around them. They are musically talented and live in human-sized bird nests and are governed by one person called the Hue-Emperor. The Wingless get around by riding horses with wings, called Ti-Koos. Both cultures are farmers and vegetarians. The average lifespan is 300 years. When they die, they evaporate.

– Aaron Smith

If you could create a fantasy world, what would it be? What would it look like and how would the people live?

Alexia Harris

Conquering Change

Change can either challenge or threaten us.

If you’re dedicated to reaching your goals, you’ll allow change to be a challenge that you can overcome.

In July, Project Learn became the only comprehensive adult GED and ESOL provider in the county.

This was hard for us because we had to serve a huge number of students with reduced funding. But we couldn’t neglect the thousands of people living in Summit County who were in need of our services.

So, we gladly accepted the challenge.

Two days ago, we proctored our first official GED test. Not only did 18 students take a big step in furthering their educational goals, they are now a part of Project Learn history.

It is amazing to consider the growth and evolution of this agency from a small volunteer-based agency to a highly-successful comprehensive adult education agency.

To those who’ve supported us, thank you.

The Effect Dropouts Have On the Cleveland Economy

Last week, I read an interesting report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education (The Alliance) that showed the Cleveland economy would grow significantly if the number of high school dropouts was cut in half. More than 8,000 students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in Cleveland and the surrounding areas, according to the report.

The Alliance’s research shows that if just half of those students had graduated, on average, they would earn more than $52 million in additional income every year of their lives. In addition, in these areas, state and local tax revenues in an average year would jump by more than $8 million, according to the report. While Cleveland was the only city in Ohio the report included, it shows clearly the importance of graduating from high school or obtaining a GED.

The Alliance’s study also found that 61 percent of the additional high school graduates would continue their education with many earning a Ph.D. or other professional degree. From a national perspective, almost 600,000 students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in the nation’s 50 largest cities and the surrounding areas. The Alliance’s research shows that if just half of those students had graduated, on average, they would have earned more than $4.1 billion in additional income every year. In addition, state and local tax revenues in an average year would jump by nearly $536 million.

I wonder how much impact a lower dropout rate in Summit County would affect the local economy? The 4,900 high schools located within the 50 cities that were included in the report have an average graduation rate of 69.8 percent, according to the report. Over 900 of these are considered “dropout factories,” that is, schools where fewer than 60 percent of freshman progress to their senior year on time.

For more information and specific numbers for each of the cities listed in the report, click here. In January, the Alliance will release additional economic and financial benefits of reducing dropout rates in these 50 cities, including additional spending and investment, job and economic growth, and home and auto sales.

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, D.C.-based policy, research and advocacy organization that works to make every child a high school graduate who is prepared for postsecondary education and success in life, according to the Alliance.

Treat ‘Em or Jail ‘Em? A Student’s Opinion

On Monday, the Akron Beacon Journal published a thought-provoking article about treating drug addicts rather than sending them to jail. Here’s a few interesting statistics presented in the article to support the case:

  • According to federal data, 7.6 million Americans needed treatment for illicit drug use in 2008, and only 1.2 million — or 16 percent — received it.
  • Thirty-seven percent of those seeking treatment don’t get it because they can’t pay for it — and many land in prison.
  • Counselors often earning less than the $40,000 per year that it costs to keep an inmate in prison in many states.

I asked my students to read the article and give their opinion on whether drug addicts should be helped or jailed. All of them agreed that addicts should be given drug treatment instead of overcrowding jails and prisons. Here’s one student’s opinion:

There should be more treatment for people on drugs. Providing treatment is less expensive. Jail doesn’t help them stop using drugs. There should be treatment centers in every community. Then the people who want help have access to it. They could get the tools they need to stop the addiction. It’s hard trying to quit using something that takes over your mind and body, but with a little, it could be easier. Federal money should be used to start the programs. People can’t stop because they don’t know how to stop. This could fix that problem.

What do you think?

Being An American

I’m always looking for ways to keep my lessons interesting for my students, which range in age from 18 to 62. Many have really excelled in essay writing since the class first started and when I came across the Bill of Rights Institute’s national Being An American Essay Contest this week, I got the idea of doing a similar essay contest like this in my class.

 The national contest asks students to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”

The national contest is open to students: in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious or charter schools; being home-schooled; or participating in a GED or correspondence school program but are no older than 19 years of age.

Since a majority of my students are too old to participate in the national contest, I decided to do a class contest and modify some of the guidelines from the national contest to coincide with the lessons we are learning. Also, for students that were not born in the United States, I am modifying it for them.

What’s great about the national contest is that it provides supporting contest materials, including lesson plans meeting national academic standards at no cost to teachers who want to incorporate the essay topic into the classroom. I’ll be using those with some modification to help with my lessons. This contest has not only helped me be more creative with teaching writing and U.S. history, it has given the students a goal to achieve. We’ll be working on the essays for several weeks.

For anyone who is interested in getting more details about the national contest essay, click here. National contest entries are due by Dec. 1, 2009. Teachers much submit essays online at that Web site for a chance to win cash prizes and a trip to the nation’s capital (awarded both to teachers and their students).

I’ll keep you posted on how my class is doing on their essays.

Kathleen Collins, pre-GED instructor

Congress Declares National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

Project Learn invites you to join us in celebrating National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (NAEFLW), October 18 – 24, 2009.  This Congressional declaration is the culmination of literacy advocacy and outreach resulting in 26 co-signers in the House. Congresswoman Betty Sutton and Congressman Tim Ryan also voted in favor of the bill.


This acknowledgement sheds light into the problem that is our nation is facing. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that 90 million adults lack the literacy, numeracy or English language skills to succeed at home, in the workplace and in society.
Locally, the need for Project Learn’s programs and services are at an all time high. As of October 15, all ABE (literacy and GED) appointments for November are filled. Two hundred students made appointments for orientation in just seven hours! Unfortunately, we now have to tell all perspective students to wait until November 16 to make an appointment for December.

Read more.

Why Youth Respond With Violence

In September, teenage honor student Derrion Albert was beaten to death on his way home from school. In the Generation Y GED class, students watched the explicit video of the fight/death that was filmed on a cell phone.

The Project Learn students were then instructed to write a response about the state of our community and how media affects youth and their actions.

Here are a few reactions:

            The beating of Derrion Albert was sad but in Chicago, things are different. In the Windy City, gangs mostly run the streets and a lot of gangs still believe that you’re in a gang even if you say you aren’t. It’s “with you’re with us or against us.” I’m the son of a big-time gang leader. The gang I used to run with did all types of things like this just to get put in a ranking. (A rank tells other members how dangerous you are. It’s almost like a source of power and respect.) A lot of beatings like this stem from refusing to join or disrespecting the set. (A set is a gang’s rules and terms on how they run that area.) It’s deeper than what the news shows us.

Gangs were created to protect and help the community, but now these young people have flipped it around. I hate it because there isn’t anymore respect or loyalty. Back then, they didn’t beat people up for small things. It was mostly over turf (being in another neighborhood) or servings (dealing drugs or making money on another man’s living grounds). There will always be gangs. I don’t think there’s any getting around it. But what gang members can do is speak to kids and show them that you can be a brotherhood without the violence. That way, we can lower the number of deaths.


            Our younger generation is falling victim to inhabit the negativity that the media displays. As a result, they have reacted by using violence in many situations. I truly feel that they are affected by the music they listen to. Let’s look at the death of Derrion Albert. He was killed while on his way home from school. This was tragic. This was only one brutal act that’s recently been reported. What about the thousands that hasn’t? We as a community have to do better for ourselves and young people looking up to us. We can’t control what’s in the media, but we can try to persuade youth not to follow the negative things that they hear in music and see on television.


It’s certain TV shows, movies and music that have an affect on our daily lives because we can relate to them. Some people might take what they see on TV and apply it in real life. Let’s take music for example. The same artist that is supposed to help people get out of the hood, are the ones bringing the guns to the hood, claiming gangs and flaunting their wardrobe. The people at home watching are going to see that and be affected by it. Basically it’s monkey see, monkey do.


New Vocabulary, Real Life

This week’s vocabulary list was a good one.

Vocabulary Words:

  • Disappoint
  • Discipline
  • Dismissal
  • Earnest
  • Embarrassment
  • Engage
  • Excessive
  • Excuse

The students seemed to enjoy using their imagination to complete the somewhat challenging assignment (use the assigned vocabulary to write a story). Below are a few that made me smile:

I once met someone who always felt like he had to make up excuses. He was an embarrassment to have around family. He would disappoint me from time to time. We went to the same school and were in our last class together. I couldn’t wait for dismissal. We had plans to go to the movies later on that evening. But of course we didn’t make it. He was earnest about making it up to me.

      I wasn’t going for that anymore, so I decided to discipline him by not answering any of his phone calls. After a couple of hours he finally came over so we could talk. I explained to him that I was tired of his excessive lying. He listened to me and said he was sorry. The next week we were engaged!


When I become disappointed in a person, I’d rather not use an act of discipline. It will not solve anything. It might just make matters worse. It would just encourage an early dismissal from the problem by the both of us. I believe that would be the best solution because at that time I may be in an earnest mood. To avoid any embarrassment we may face by an altercation, we should talk it out like adults. In this case, I think excessive talking would be a good thing. I think this because we will come to a better understanding if everything is put on the table. I also think that an excuse in not necessary. We should take up for our actions.

My students continue to impress me!


Big Daddy

One of my passions is writing. I love to write and get excited when I see my students put effort into their writing assignments.

Below I highlight one of my students and an essay he wrote. Greg writes about his favorite movie using scenes from the movie and relating it to his personal experiences.

My favorite movie is Big Daddy with Adam Sandler. It is about a guy who gets stuck with this kid (who is really his best friend’s son). He struggles to take care of him because he is a kid himself. He ends up becoming emotionally attached to his “new” kid.

Throughout the movie the kid puts him through a hard time, but becomes a part of Sunny’s (Adam Sandler’s character) life. He uses the kid to get girls and the kid uses him to get what he wants. I think that for the most part, Sunny cared and never wanted to see anything happen to the young boy. Sunny takes him to school every day and they do everything together. In the end, Sunny had to give the kid back to his real father and it was really sad.

This was my favorite movie because I want to be a father or a good influenece on a younger loved one. There are a lot of children who are abandoned because parents are too worried about their own lives.



What’s In Your Stocking?

Since I teach a much younger GED class, I try to keep the discussions and assignments current. Each lesson that is taught is brought around full circle so that the students can personally relate.

The purpose of the following activity is to teach the students how to interpret and analyze pictures with hidden messages. I found this editorial cartoon in the August 4, 2009 issue of the Plain Dealer. I asked the students to tell me what message cartoonist Jeff Darcy was trying to portray in this political cartoon.

Roid Sox


Here are a few responses:

The Boston Red Sox players are good only because they are juiced up on steroids.

The Red Sox players have used or are using steroids to enhance their performace on the field. What does that say about players today compared to the all-time greats such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig? I think they are turning in their graves.

This reminds me of the “settlers” who brought drugs and diseases to countries to hurt the inhabitants. Now when people like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez take steroids, it’s a problem. What about the people who push dope in our communities?