Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Adult Education program creating better opportunities for tribal members

By CHRISSY DILL Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is home to over 6,000 employees whose goal is to provide Choctaw members with helpful programs and departments that work to meet their various needs. The Adult Education program gives members the opportunity to further their education by earning their GED credentials.

The purpose of the Adult Education program is to improve educational and employment opportunities to any adult that possesses a CDIB card. “The program provides an opportunity for those adults who did not complete high school to acquire the basic educational and/or learning skills for functioning effectively in today’s changing world,” explained Adult Education Director Neal Hawkins.

The program began in 1993 when Joy Culbreath was asked by the Choctaw Nation to help build an adult education program, according to Hawkins. “She began the program as its only employee, doing everything from teaching GED classes to doing clerical work,” he said.

Since then, the program has gained more valuable help, now having three full-time employees and three part-time employees.

With the beneficial work these employees provide, Adult Education has gained much success throughout the years. “Since Chief Pyle took office in 1997, we have had over 1,000 students attain their GED diplomas through our program,” said Hawkins. “In the last three years, we have averaged between 140 to 150 students each year earn their GED credentials.”

According to Hawkins, GED classes are currently offered in Durant year-round and classes are offered every 13 weeks, alternated between McAlester, Poteau, Stigler, Wilburton, Hugo and Broken Bow; these classes are taught by Vicky Alford, Beth Lawless and Charles Thompson.

“We also have our Distance Learning classes taught by Martha Childs, which repeat every nine weeks at six of our community centers,” continued Hawkins. These centers include Atoka, Coalgate, Talihina, Smithville, Bethel and Wright City.

The Adult Education program received recognition two years ago for becoming the official GED test site for Bryan and Atoka counties. “This allows us to test our students immediately after concluding GED classes,” said Hawkins, explaining that, in the past, students would on occasion have to wait a month or two before they were able to find a test site that would be able to administer the GED test.

Now, Hawkins and his employees are allowed by the State Department of Education Lifelong Learning Program to travel throughout the Choctaw Nation and administer the test at several Choctaw Nation community centers and at the Eastern Oklahoma State College McAlester campus.

It is Hawkins responsibility as director to provide guidance to employees when questions or problems present themselves. He also performs clerical work, scheduling of tests, advertises upcoming classes, as well as many other jobs.

Hawkins acknowledged his employees as the motivation and real hard work behind the program. “The real contributions are made by the teachers that work day-to-day, teaching the students and providing counseling and tutoring to the students when needed,” said Hawkins.

“The teachers are the employees that make the program a success,” Hawkins continued. “If it wasn’t for their desire and care to see the students succeed, the program wouldn’t be what it is today.”

The Adult Education program has brought the Choctaw community opportunity to grow and excel even more than it already has and provides tribal members the chance to become more successful in their professional career. “When our students achieve their educational goals, they become more successful in acquiring better jobs and promotions, which enables them to increase their personal incomes, improving the lives of those students and their families,” said Hawkins. “Hopefully the children and other family members will realize the importance of an education and become role models for future generations.

“If our department can improve the life on one family, then we have been successful,” said Hawkins, “but if we can improve the lives of 140 to 150 students each year, then those families can make the Choctaw Nation a place where hope, pride and success are an everyday occurrence.”

If you are interested in enrolling in GED classes, you may contact Neal Hawkins at 580-924-8280, ext. 2319, or Kathy Springfield at ext. 2122.