VALDOSTA -- An initiative designed to encourage high school graduates to pursue some form of postsecondary training is under way at Valdosta State University.

Known as a Campaign for College Readiness, it is called "Education. Go Get It." It was initiated by the Southwest Georgia Higher Education Consortium, a regional economic development component of the University System of Georgia's Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, to ensure parents and students understand the importance of higher education and how to prepare for it academically and financially.

Maggie Viverette, campaign coordinator, said the initiative is dedicated to making families aware of the positive impact higher education has on their lives and communities. She said it does not matter whether the postsecondary training is received at a four-year college, two-year college, or technical college.

"There is an academic fit out there for everyone," she added. "There is a path for everyone. I love that about this initiative."

Viverette said a high school education is no longer enough for middle-class America. She said employers who once hired those holding high school diplomas are now looking for those with some form of additional training.

"If residents of South Georgia are to be competitive in the job market, they need to receive some form of postsecondary training," she added.

Comparing salaries, Viverette said the value of higher education to the student and to the economy is readily apparent. She said the students who enter the job market directly out of the high school earn less than those who acquire two-year or four-year college degrees or technical diplomas and certificates.

In the rural areas of Southwest Georgia where poverty is rampant, Viverette said higher education is of upmost importance. She said the students of today will become the leaders of tomorrow. In order to break the cycle of poverty, she said tomorrow's leaders must be well-educated and well-trained to make good decisions.

Valdosta State University's "Education. Go Get It." team is busy spreading the message to students in grades kindergarten through 12 and their parents. They do this with the assistance of various community-based organizations, who also have a stake in making this initiative a success.

"We are already having great success," Viverette said. "The sooner we can plant that seed the better."

This campaign was patterned after one recently launched statewide in Texas by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. It has the support of the Southern Regional Education Board and the chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

Leading partners in the campaign are Albany State University, Georgia Southwestern State University, the University of Georgia, and Valdosta State University. Supporting partners are Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Bainbridge College and Darton College.

Depending on the success of the initiative, "Education. Go Get It." will be expanded all over the state in an effort to increase the number of high school graduates entering academic and technical colleges and universities.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 255.

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