What started out as an outreach to low-income housing projects in Jackson,
Miss., two years ago has become one of the states largest General
Equivalency Diploma learning centers. It is also reaping a harvest of
GED graduates are recognized for their educational achievements.
"There were so many people we were trying to help, but the only way
to really help them was through education," says Pastor Eddie Hillburn,
the childrens pastor of Southside A/G in Jackson. More than 50
people have graduated from the GED program, and more than a dozen have
gone on to higher education at the local community college. Each 12-week
semester has about 30 students in attendance.
A key factor in the success of the program has been the free child
care offered by the church while the parents attend classes.
"You have these 15- and 16-year-old girls who got pregnant and had
to drop out of high school," Hillburn says. "If they dont have
child care, they are looking at 18 years before they can finish their
Southside uses volunteers who hold regular childrens services
on the Tuesday nights that the GED classes are held, including a nursery.
About 30 kids attend each week. "We added many families to our church
through it," Hillburn says. "We were holding a revival, and two of the
girls from the GED classes slipped into the Tuesday night service after
class. Both made dedications to accept Christ."
Church members donating their time staff the entire operation. "When
we applied to become a GED learning center, the man in charge told us
he would have to see what he could fit into his budget," Hillburn says.
"I asked him why he needed a budget. The man was amazed when I told
him that all our teachers were volunteering."
The GED program won three local awards for highest numbers of students,
teachers and graduates. The local exchange club awarded Hillburn, and
his wife, Ann, the "Golden Book of Deeds Award" for impacting their