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Adult learners in Ohio build life skills and confidence in pursuit of diplomas and certifications

  • Joanna
  • December 22, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio, December 22, 2016 – Hundreds of Ohioans are working toward career skill certifications as part of a new program being facilitated by community colleges across the state.

The initiative, which is free to participants, is an added benefit to high school diploma programs launched this year at community colleges across the state. The programs are designed for people over the age of 22 who haven’t graduated high school or earned a GED — and who want to do something about that.

In addition to pursuing a diploma, participants can work toward certifications in life skills — employability skills, financial math and digital literacy.

That’s what Addie Barnett is doing. The 41-year- old mother of six from Akron has worked on her feet, often in medical facilities, since leaving high school as a teenager. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Barnett said she knew she needed to find a career that would allow her to stay engaged in the workforce, but in a way that would be less taxing on her body.

She said the new program, which participants can complete online, is giving her the tools to do just that.

Barnett aced the first class in the employability skills certification program. In doing so, she said, she got a boost of confidence.

“When I did that class, I felt like I was seeing for the first time all the different options I can have in the workforce,” she said. “I felt really positive about getting the rest of my life kickstarted.”

That’s exactly what Deborah O’Brien wants to hear.

The chief learning officer at Graduation Alliance, which is facilitating the community college programs, said the certification courses are designed to teach the sorts of hard skills that will help people land a new job – and life skills, like simple confidence, that can help individuals like Barnett dream a little bigger.

“When it comes to the digital literacy certification, for instance, the idea isn’t just that we’re imparting skills, although we’re definitely doing that,” O’Brien said. “We’re also helping these folks feel more confident in going to an employer and saying, ‘yes, I absolutely feel comfortable on a computer, let me show you.’”

Likewise, the employability skills program is intended to show employers that a certificate holder is ready to work — and understands the importance of qualities like punctuality, initiative, team work, and accepting feedback.

As Barnett went through the coursework emphasizing such traits, she realized that she already possessed many of those qualities — she had just never thought of those attributes as skills that could help her get, keep and be promotable in a job.

Once she did, she realized that her dream career didn’t have to just be a dream.

“I love helping people; that’s what I do and who I am,” Barnett said. “So I really want to be a Christian counselor. That’s my dream.”

Barnett completed the first course in her employability skills certificate program on Nov. 23. The next day — Thanksgiving — she was back to work on courses in financial math and health that will help her earn her diploma.

“I’m not going to take a rest,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m determined to reach my goal.”

About Graduation Alliance

Graduation Alliance strengthens communities, states and the economy by preparing and empowering tomorrow’s workforce. Through highly effective postsecondary planning, alternative education and training programs, Graduation Alliance ensures every student has an opportunity to succeed during and after high school. For more information about Graduation Alliance, visit

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