Young mother turning her life around with the help of Collins#8217; ABLE program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

Until last year, Ashley O’Neill just thought she was a bad student.

“I didn’t try hard enough. I was just worried about hanging out with my friends,” O’Neill said.

That all changed when she got involved with the Adult Basic and Literacy Education program, the Collins Career Center branch of which graduated its first class of students Thursday night.

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Now O’Neill has her General Equivalency Diploma and soon will be heading to college to enter into the health care field.

After her second attempt at graduating from South Point High School failed, O’Neill was left with few prospects.

That was until February 2005, when O’Neill gave birth to her baby daughter.

Eager to make a new, better life for her daughter, O’Neill took a chance on a program recommended to her by her social worker.

ABLE is a free program offered by three centers in the area: The Workforce Development Resource Center in Ironton, the Collins Career Center in Getaway and the Chesapeake Community Center.

The program’s goal is to help students prepare for their GED, or just to improve some basic skills.

O’Neill soon found that the program’s flexibility in scheduling and one-on-one instruction was just what she needed.

“I didn’t think I could do it; I just thought I was lazy,” O’Neill said with a laugh.

“But they kept working with me and working with me, and it only took me two months to get my GED.”

Peggy Dodgion, who coordinates the program for the county, hears stories like these all the time. She said that the program often can reach students who had difficulty in high school.

“Typical education works for most students, but there’s some people that high school is not where they want to be,” Dodgion said. “This offers them another opportunity.”

It’s been a true second chance for O’Neill, who is working now while she takes care of her daughter. In the coming months, the former “lazy” student will head to college to study to be a radiological technician.

It all started when she got her GED, a moment she credits to the staff of the ABLE program.

“It made me think that if I could do that, and I didn’t think I could, then there are a lot more things in life that I can achieve that I didn’t think I could,” O’Neill.