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March 18--  In 2001, leaders in Toombs, Montgomery and Tattnall counties set a goal to reduce the adult illiteracy rate which was then running at about 40 percent.

This week a review team from the state's Certified Literate Community Program visited and annouced it will recommend the counties be certified as Adult Literate Communities, according to state director Billie Izard.


A delegation from the Certified Literate Community Program attended Wednesday's meeting of the Vidalia Rotary Club which is where the initiative was originally announced in 2001.  (Front row, l-r are Sandy Cross, Kim Taylor, Kathy Moses, Sherry Perry, Dr. Cathy Mitchell, Randy Houser; back row, l-r Larry Cowart, Vidalia Mayor Protem Raymond Turner, State CLCP board member Mary Flanders, State CLCP Director Billie Izard and David Yarbrough.

"It means how successful you've been.  You've served over 7,600 individuals who've improved their education and over 2,200 received their GED diplomas.  That's economic development for the community, it means healthier, better families who are able to provide for themselves, and it's something to be very proud of," Izard says.

Kathy Moses of Montgomery County was the first chairperson of the three-county literacy board, "This is just great, it's so exciting.  It's been a long road, but I think we're here," she says, and notes the difference education has made in so many lives, "The stories will just bring you to your knees.  David Yarbrough was talking to me and said he wanted to tell a story, but he would have cried, had he tried, and there are stories like that everywhere."

One of those stories belongs to Maureen Copeland of Toombs County who is this year's outstanding adult literacy student in the local area.  "It's opened a lot of doors.  I'm already enrolled in Southeastern Tech and I'm on my way to getting a better job and being more productive for my community," she says.

Officials estimate the illiteracy rate is now about 28 percent.  Kathy Moses says work will continue to reduce it even more.  "That was what we pretty well had to come up with some plans for, how to perpetuate what we have going.  I think the charter school is going to be one big thing that will help our efforts," she said.

The board of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education is expected to approve the review panel's recommendation at its meeting in April and formal presentation of the certification would come in May, according to Izard.