In Sin City, Out-of-Work Adults Double Down on Education
Photo by John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty Images.
The recession hit many Las Vegans very hard. The burst of the housing bubble meant construction and landscaping jobs requiring little education dried up. And fewer tourists in Sin City meant casinos shed even more.
That, in turn, has led to many of the unemployed or under-employed to re-evaluate their skills. Some have chosen to try to earn a GED. And that desire has led to a surge in enrollment in the Community Multicultural Center's GED program.
"We're seeing students come back because places where they used to get employment without GED they can no longer do so," said Lyn Pizor, the Center's Executive Director. "They have to have that initial entry piece before they can get jobs in most of the casinos, the school district, jobs that traditionally didn't require a high school degree now do."
The Center is federally funded through the Workforce Investment Act and last year served 550 people, including those who wanted to improve their English and those working toward a GED. By next year, Pizor expects it will be serving 800 people.
"We are kind of the last stop at the last house on the block," she said. "Without this program students wouldn't have a place to go. We offer the classes for free and there is a $10.00 registration fee and then everything else is free. We have the computer lab so a student who doesn't have access to a computer can come in here on a regular basis. When they are finished they become more ready to exist in society as productive members of society."
Luther Clark is one man looking to become a more productive member of Las Vegas' society. The 49-year old high school dropout said he's had a hard time finding work during the recession. So in the meantime, he decided to go back to class at the Center with the goal of one day becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant.
"When I first came I was nervous," Clark said. "I haven't been in nobody's school and class in a number of years."
But Luther is now a regular at the Center's computer lab, coming in for several hours most weekdays. And getting that GED is now the priority in his life.
"I make sure that during the week I gets my rest, I eat right you know no partying and all that for me you know because my focus is basically my focus is basically on this certificate," said Clark. "Anything else I put to the side. You know anything else I put to the side. It's important to me."
We'll have more on efforts to curb the graduation crisis on Tuesday's NewsHour broadcast, which you can preview here.
American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.