Salvation Army in Los Banos to launch GED program

The Los Banos Salvation Army Corps will start a program in September to help those who did not graduate high school get a General Education Development, more commonly known as a “GED” certificate.

This spring the nonprofit organization received a $20,000 grant to operate the program.

“It’s actually targeting high school dropouts. If they’re under 18 we always try to get them back in school, but this is for adults,” said Sandy Lemas, a Salvation Army program coordinator.

The grant was awarded by the National Salvation Army organization.

One of the reasons the Los Banos group received the funding was because of a Social Science Research Council study showing 37.5 percent of adult residents on the west side of Merced County and the Livingston area do not have a high school diploma. The rate of non-high school graduates for a similar population size nationwide is 13.6 percent, according to the international research organization.

Lemas said she believes a high migrant population and Merced County being “economically depressed” contribute to having a high rate of residents who have not completed high school.

Lemas said the grant money will be used to assist people in paying for GED testing, purchasing software, providing preparation for taking the test and helping with transportation costs.

“We have to depend on the bus. You usually have to go to Atwater to take the GED test. There’s no local GED test services here,” Lemas said.

The goal of the program is to get 200 people to earn their GED.

Margie Cotta, who will lead efforts in helping people study for the GED, said she’s seen a huge need for the program through her work with the Salvation Army.

“There are people who’ve been out of school for a long time who are asking us to help them. They now realize without that diploma they’re not going to get jobs,” Cotta said. “It may be a piece of paper to you and I, but if you don’t have it employers won’t look at you.”

For more information contact the Los Banos Salvation Army Corps at (209) 827-4945.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 826-3831, ext. 6563, or