Kelly Smith

LAUSD/DACE - South Gate Community Adult School

A single mother, Kelly Smith had five children to care for. She was enrolled in the GAIN (Greater Avenues to Independence) Program in Los Angeles County, but her time with them was running out and she had a decision to make. Kelly had two choices; go to work at a low skilled, low paying job that would require the added financial strain of childcare and transportation to an already tight budget; or go to school to get the skills that would lead to a better job and get her off welfare for good. Since she had never worked before and didn't want to get stuck in a dead-end job that would never fully provide for her or her five children, she decided to enroll in South Gate Community Adult School. The adult school would give her the opportunity to improve the keyboarding and office skills she already had, and acquire the needed computer applications skills that would hopefully lead to a better job and a better future.

The GAIN Program referred her to Karla Rubio's Computer Applications program at South Gate CAS. Though she already had some keyboarding and office experience, she had very little knowledge of computers. Diligently applying herself, Kelly overcame her challenges and successfully completed the courses.

Kelly also wanted a high school diploma. She had dropped out of high school to take care of her mother who had become seriously ill. Kelly needed to work and the stress of being a primary care giver as a teenager overwhelmed her and forced Kelly out of high school just ten units short of graduation. Adult school would not only help her to improve her job skills, but also give Kelly the opportunity to finally get her high school diploma.

When GAIN first told Kelly that she had to either go to work or school to continue assistance, she felt as if she was being "forced" to make a decision she didn't want to make. But, "once I started going [to school], I loved it!" she says with excitement. She admits that assistance with transportation, childcare and a clothing allowance paid for by GAIN factored into her choosing school, but she also says, without this assistance she would not have been able to go to school. "Don't be afraid to accept assistance," she says. Being in school gave her a self confidence she had not had, and improved her self esteem. Her children also had a deeper respect for their mother.

"Getting started — getting back into life — getting past the security of having someone else provide, and to do for myself," Kelly says was the biggest challenge she faced. She worried about striking a balance between her daily responsibilities to her children and her need for an education which would help give them all a better life. She described the whole ordeal as "scary," but decided to "go for it." Which is exactly the advice she gives to others. "Go for it! You will be amazed how good you feel about yourself and how your kids feel about you. Take advantage of it," she encourages others when talking about adult education. She goes on with some practical, if often overlooked, insight, "I see things differently now. Without education you won't get how to read or fill out a job application, how to make sure you're getting paid right or are paying the right amount to someone else."

Earning her GED and completing the computer applications classes at South Gate CAS has helped Kelly to meet her life goals. While still attending school, she was offered a full-time position with the Los Angeles Unified School District working in a high school counseling office. She became a permanent employee in 2002. For Kelly, public assistance is a thing of the past. She is earning a good salary, and has overcome life's challenges to become an adult education success. She admits that she owes her success to being "forced" to make difficult choices, and to adult education which provided her the tools for a good job with a good future.

LAUSD/DACE - South Gate Community Adult School Website External link opens in new window or tab.