Originally published in NEWS4SA, San Antonio by Darian Trotter (Facebook)

A local non-profit is giving people who want to get their high school diploma or adult GED an opportunity to do it for free.Experts explain why adult education courses are an important part of the city’s plan to improve the economy and help people find work.When it comes to San Antonio’s illiteracy and drop out rates the numbers are staggering.

“At least a quarter of the population is considered functionally illiterate. Over 400-thousand individuals don’t have a GED or a high school diploma,” Kelli Rhodes said.

Kelli Rhodes is an educator on the front lines who’s fighting to make a difference.

She’s the Executive Director of Restore Education, the city’s leading GED and college prep program for adults. “They’ve been basically considered a failure to their family, maybe to their kids; and so this is their opportunity to prove everybody wrong.”

Restore graduate Erin Villarreal said, “If you really want it, you will do it. You will find a way.”

Erin Villarreal dropped out of high school years ago. She was motivated by her three children to get her life back on track.

“Even tho I was busy with three children I just kept pushing myself to keep going and I got my GED.” She applied at Restore four years ago. Restore offers one-on-one tutoring, tailored to each student’s needs, and at no cost.

“San Antonio ranks near the bottom of the top 102 metropolitan areas in the nation, we’re ranked number 90 in terms of brain power,” said Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert.

He says programs like Restore Education are key to improving the economic health of Bexar County. The more people are educated, the more likely they are to enter the workforce.

“If you know somebody who may be illiterate, hasn’t finished school, dropped out encourage them that these GED programs are really important,” Calvert said. {}Erin was recently accepted into St. Phillip’s College where she plans to study to become an x-ray technician.

“So it just feels fabulous to really show my children that I can do something and I can be something for them, it feels great. It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said.

Application are currently being accepted at Restore Education.