Adult Ed: Changing focus, changing Lives

One of several retired Rhea County teachers at the Adult Education program in Dayton, Manuel Christie teaches students practical math applications. (Elmer Harris / Rhea Review)

Rhea County’s new Adult Education now offers “One Stop Shop” for Careers

Nearly 700,000 adults in Tennessee do not have a high school diploma or HSE (high school equivalency).   This leaves a great deal of our state’s potential workforce untapped.

Changing the focus of Adult Education

Leslie Travis - River Valley Adult Education
Leslie Travis – River Valley Adult Education

But Leslie Travis who oversees the state’s adult education program in Rhea, Meigs, and McMinn counties is working to change that.

Last July, she was named supervisor of the program and has since refocused efforts beyond HSE certification to include a “Ready to Work” program which offers enhanced employment opportunities through a partnership with local industries such as La-Z-Boy and Suburban.

“It’s all part of the state’s efforts to help people find gainful employment,” she says with an enthusiasm that seems to have spread through the entire building.  “I can’t help from getting excited about coming to work everyday.  I never know who I’m gonna be able to help today.”

Changing Lives through Education

Travis tells new students, “This is not the easiest path to getting your high school diploma, but we’ll be there for you every step of the way.”


Education changes lives, the lives of their children and the lives of their grandchildren.

Jason Beard – TN Adult Ed Administrator


When asked if students are ever dissuaded by the statement, she says, “No, because they already made the choice to be here.”

And that’s one thing she says stands out from her past experience as a high school educator.  “Everyone is here because they made the choice to be.  All students are hopeful and determined to change their lives for the better.”

Jason Beard, Chief Administrator of Adult Education in Tennessee, says, “Adult education is the key to open the door to workforce development.  We are equipping people with the skills they need to become gainfully employed.”

And ultimately Beard says, “It changes their lives, the lives of their children and grandchildren.”

“That’s why Mrs. Travis is doing such an amazing job in reaching out to folks in the community to get their diploma and helping them achieve their goals.”

Beard says the goal is to get folks a job — a good job.  He insists, “Our business is not issuing diplomas.  Our business is creating employable workers.”

River Valley Adult Education is located directly above Chatt State at Dayton Skills Center.
River Valley Adult Education is located directly above Chatt State at Dayton Skills Center.

Rhea County Economic and Tourism director Dennis Tumlin says the thriving adult education program will provide a valuable tool in luring new industry.

“One of the best things we can do to attract new industry is to have a skilled workforce in place,” Tumlin says.

“It’s great to see local and state leaders committed to developing a workforce which will provide a consistent pipeline of employees to area industries.”

Success breeds success

One student, Tiffany, graduated high school over 10 years ago but says back then she was assigned to special education classes.  When she recently tried to enroll in a local community college, her application was denied.

Seeing her mother successfully complete the adult education program, gave her the confidence she needed to get started.  After receiving her HSE, her mother quickly enrolled at Chattanooga State in Dayton and is on track to become a registered nurse.

“I started taking these classes and felt very comfortable here.  They made me feel at home, and I feel like they care,” she said.

“Instead of minimum wage, I’m wanting to do better,” she said with bright eyes.  “I’m ready to move on with my life and go to college.”

Tiffany says she currently works with kids and has dreams of one day becoming  a medical assistant.

Dayton’s “One Stop Shop” for Careers

Travis oversees several adult education offices in our area on behalf of Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Athens, but says the office at Dayton Skills Center is unique in that it is a “One Stop Shop” for careers.

“Dayton Skills Center offers a trifecta of resources in that the Tennessee Career Center, Chattanooga State Community College, United Way of Rhea County, and River Valley Adult Education are all in one location,” she says.

Travis has recently liberated three new classrooms in the building to accommodate new students, but she says none of this would be possible without the community’s support.  Rhea County Department of Education, City of Dayton, United Way, and Rhea County Literary Council are but a few of the groups she credits with helping the program achieve its goals.

The Dayton Skills Center is located at 200 4th Avenue by the YMCA.  Orientations are held at the beginning of every month – call (423) 365-5020 to register.  For classes in Athens, call 423-745-5111.

Click here for Rhea County’s Summer 2015 Adult Education calendar.

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  1. I am Tiffany’s mother the article speeks of, and yes, I completed my HSE at Dayton. They were so very helpful to me because of them I succeed in my goal for my HSE. I am now in my second semester for the RN degree, and I’m not stopping. I thank God for the inspiration I have given to my daughter. I tell her if I can do it at 47 you can do it to. This article made me cry!


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