By Delawese Fulton, Fort Jackson LeaderAugust 12, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- This month marks a year since the Army Preparatory School at Fort Jackson helped its first student-Soldiers earn their General Education Development certificate.
An average of 55 new Soldiers are enrolled in the program each week, said APS company commander Capt. Brian Gaddis. And with a 99 percent pass rate, more than 2,000 Soldiers have graduated from the program.
"This program is going great. I don't think anybody could have predicted how well we are doing here," Gaddis said.
The Army Prep School is a program piloted by DoD to help men and women who have not earned their high school diploma - but have scored in the top 50 percentile on the ASVAB - earn their GED and fulfill the requirements of a Soldier. Just as with many occupations, Soldiers are required to have earned at least a high school diploma or GED.
The four-week program provides remediation in math, English and grammar or other subjects in which the Soldiers might need tutelage.
APS also gets the new Soldiers ready for the physical demands of basic combat training.
APS Soldiers are up every morning at 5 a.m. readying for 6 a.m. physical training and 8 a.m. classes. Class instruction lasts until 4:30 p.m.
Gaddis said APS' success is credited to three important factors at the school: The teachers; the fact that the Soldiers are required to have scored in at least the 50-percentile; and that the Soldiers are motivated to do well.
The instructors for APS are certified educators contracted by Stanley Associates Inc., a federal government professional services provider.
Instructor and site manager Duane Norell said the Soldiers are given a pre-GED test, which helps his staff assess each Soldier's skills and needs so an individual study plan can be developed to help them prepare for the actual GED.
Because of the tailored instruction and the fact that many of the Soldiers appreciate this second-chance at their education, many push themselves to graduate within two to three weeks from the month-long program.
"They have realized that this is the line in the sand. And they have said, 'I've decided I'm going to change my life,'" Gaddis said.
Once they have earned their GEDs, the Soldiers continue to BCT and their military careers.
A variety of life circumstances and family situations bring Soldiers through APS' doors.
Pvt. Ravid Toosya of Davie, Fla., who is a native of Israel, said APS has helped him and his wife make a new start in the United States.
"It made a huge difference," said Toosya, 38. Toosya owned a photography business in Florida before deciding to join the Army.
Because Toosya owned a business, he said he was never asked or required to prove that he had completed secondary education. In addition, in his home country, it was not required for him to have completed schooling to enroll in the military, Toosya said.
After getting married, Toosya and his wife, who is American, moved to the States.
"My wife is more proud ... now that I have my GED," he said.
Toosya added that the Army and APS have also made him more confident.
"I see more self-discipline, and I see that in other Soldiers too," he said.
Fellow APS graduate, Pvt. Teju James of Kennesaw, Ga., agreed.
"I didn't finish high school because of family issues," said 18-year-old James. "This means everything to me. It is a chance to improve myself, to become a leader. It is like there was a hidden person in me who has become stronger and more reliable."