Submitted by Rick Wilson of Syntiro
Peter McGary of Houlton has worked seasonally on potato farms since he was 18. While he loves the work he does, McGary wants more options. Without a high school diploma, however, he’s found opportunities for better jobs limited. So recently, at age 41, McGary applied and was accepted into the Maine High School Equivalency Program (HEP).
Approximately 2,100 students drop out of Maine high schools every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these students have average earnings of $459 per week, compared to $636 for those with a high school diploma and $1,152 for those with at least bachelor’s degree.
The Maine High School Equivalency Program works to increase career options and earnings potential for migrant and seasonal farm workers without high school diplomas by helping them earn their GEDs, and find better jobs, attend college or join the U.S. Armed Forces.
Maine HEP provides its students with mentoring; college and career counseling; travel and childcare reimbursements; a weekly stipend of $100; college visits; and trips to museums, art shows and other cultural attractions. Maine HEP partners with the state’s adult education programs and the Maine Migrant Education Program.
Maine HEP is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education and administered by Syntiro, a nonprofit organization located in Readfield. The High School Equivalency Program serves migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their family members. Someone who has worked in agriculture or forestry for at least 75 days over the last two years may qualify for the program.
Two Maine HEP students have recently earned their GEDs: Matthew Sawyer from Caribou and Kalee Dana from Indian Township. Sawyer is employed in the potato industry in Presque Isle and Dana rakes blueberries in Washington County. Dana has plans to attend Washington County Community College this spring.
Maine HEP is enrolling students for the 2011-12 academic year.
Call Maria Millard, Regional HEP Facilitator, at 207-735-7198 to refer to the program someone in need of a GED who has a connection to agriculture and/or logging. You can also make a referral and find out more information at: www.mainehep.org.
Rick Wilson is Operations Coordinator at Syntiro.