From Paper and Pencil to High-Tech

by Katherine Noll; photos by Carlo Acerra
June 20, 2014

GED Testing Center opening"Tell me the truth, did anyone take the test? Did anyone pass?" Dr. Mark Erickson asked the crowd of supporters who gathered at the Fowler Family Southside Center on June 19 for the grand opening of Northampton Community College's new computerized GED Test Center.

The questions, displayed on the room's twelve computers as practice tests, are not easy. They run the gauntlet from analyzing inflation graphs to identifying concepts in an 1848 speech by suffragist Elizabeth Cady. NCC not only prepares students for the rigorous examination, but administers the test. Due to a change in federal regulations, the test shifted from a paper-based to a computer-based test on January 1, 2014.

"We were scrambling. How were we going to continue to serve the needs of our community?" Erickson shared.

The answer came from dedicated donors who refused to let this vital community program be extinguished:  The R.K. Laros Foundation, The Donley Foundation and The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.

Thanks to their generosity, people like Violet Lopez will be able to continue to take the GED test as they pursue important goals. As a speaker at the grand opening of the test center, Lopez said, "When my daughter was getting close to her high school graduation, it made me aware that this is something that I had to get for myself. I took [the test] twice, each time missing it by ten points. I was so discouraged. The teachers here did not give up on me. They called me all the time and encouraged me to retake it. I did, and I finally passed. I went from making $9 an hour to $17. I'll be starting classes at NCC this fall."

"We're helping people to help themselves, which leads to a better career and a better life," Board Member Russell "Keller" Laros III said after the room's dedication plaque was unveiled.

Diane Martin, chair of NCC's Foundation Board, said a few words on behalf of herself and her husband, Chris Martin, CEO of Martin Guitar. "We're fortunate that we can do this. The credit does not go to us but the faculty, staff and students. They do the hard work. In my life as a magistrate, I saw people struggle to get their GEDS. I know how hard it is."

Michelle Pappalardo, associate dean of workforce development, said that the new regulations were "a national challenge as well as a challenge in Pennsylvania. We've been ecstatic to rise to that challenge. To have the opportunity to empower our learners is what this is all about."

"We are blessed and privileged to play that role," Dr. Erickson concluded before again thanking the donors. "You make a difference in our community that goes far beyond this room."

The GED Test Center is part of NCC's Center for Adult Literacy and Basic Workforce Development which helps adults develop the literacy skills necessary to function as family members, workers, community members, and lifelong learners in today's globalized and multi-cultural society. The new GED test center is equipped with twelve computers and with comfortable chairs (!) for students taking the GED test.

For more information about NCC's GED and other Adult Literacy Programs, call 610-332-8650. 

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