The board room was bustling with activity as more than 100 people -- teachers, mentors, friends, family and more -- poured in. They rallied around nearly four dozen recent graduates, most who have finished serving probation, prison or jail sentences. Today, they graduate from the county’s Londer Learning Center, its largest graduating class since more rigorous GED (General Education Requirements) testing standards were implemented in 2014.
“It really speaks volumes about their accomplishment,” said Carole Scholl, longtime Londer Learning Center manager. “I’ve seen so many students who have overcome obstacles, that are challenging even for someone who hasn’t been through the justice system and have continued to be successful after graduation.”
Multnomah County’s Londer Learning Center or (LLC) operates under the auspices of the Department of Community Justice and offers a wealth of resources for those transitioning back into the community from jail or prison or adults in recovery. At LLC, students can receive GED testing, National Career Readiness certification, computer coding skills, apprenticeship preparation for jobs in construction and other valuable tools for success in the workplace.
“The one thing I learned is that it’s a huge accomplishment to get your GED,” said Commissioner Diane McKeel who spoke before Thursday’s graduating class. “All of you have overcome barriers in order to become successful students by believing in yourself. This is just the beginning and I look forward to what you accomplish in the community as you continue your success.“
Despite more challenging Common Core testing standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, the center has doubled the number of graduates from last year with 32 GED graduates, ten apprenticeship graduates and two technology students who completed basic coding/programming coursework.
“When I got to the Londer Learning Center my math skills were horrible but I can say that the LLC is a really good place to learn and grow,” said recent graduate Steven Accord.
Accord spoke candidly about his experience. He went to high school in Texas, but dropped out in the 10th grade. He struggled with depression and started abusing prescription drugs, then eventually heroin.
In 2014 at 34, He got a DUII which was followed by another driving violation. He lost his job, began selling drugs, then got arrested for dealing.
“Let me tell ya, I’m a horrible drug dealer,” Accord says. “And I did it for two weeks and got caught by the police.”
While in jail, a mentor told Accord about the GED program at the Londer Learning Center. He enrolled in a work/release program which allowed him to take classes at the LLC. He continued to go to the center even after he completed his sentence which helped him establish a routine.
“Being an addict and being in jail transforms a person and I didn’t conduct myself well in that environment and they help stabilize you in that aspect. “I view things a little differently. I have better person-to-person communication skills. I can be more constructive in my conversation than I was.”
Other graduates shared their success stories. Brandy Upham, teared up while talking about being reunited with her children after being arrested for drug possession. The mother received her GED and currently works as a flagger for Northwest Traffic Control. She shared her story with KGW news and has aspirations of becoming a lineman which requires a GED.
“It's amazing that I was able to get help and overcome where I failed,” said Upham. “I have continued to pick up my life and go forward.”
For Accord, he works at a janitorial company and currently lives in an Oxford House. He is able to spend time with his children and recently, saw his daughter off to college.
“I have a really great job at janitorial company. I have a great boss who recognized all the work that I’ve done. I couldn’t have done it without my GED or the help I received.”