PARIS — The staff at Oxford Hills Adult Education wants students to get to class and has established the Adult Ed ride-sharing program, which kicks off next week.

From the Adult Ed office in Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Tuesday, Clyde Clark, director, Katrina Webster, guidance counselor, and Kirsten Petroska, English language-arts teacher, talked about the challenges facing their nontraditional, adult students.

The biggest issues that prevent students from getting to school and completing their coursework is transportation, followed by child care. While the trio doesn’t feel it can do much about child care, it can support students with transportation issues.

“Life gets in the way. Frequently a car breaks down,” Clark said, noting that often people often don’t have the money to fix it. “These are people that … frequently life has kicked them down. … Schooling hasn’t necessarily kicked them down. … They just need some help.”

Before now, ride-sharing, or car-pooling, was an informal thing for Adult Ed students.

“They sort of organically offer … each other (rides) and the exchange will happen in class,” Petroska said, adding she noticed this in the certified nursing assistant program. “I’ve seen students in the CNA program go 15 to 30 miles out of the way to go pick someone else up.”

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When many of the Adult Ed classes begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8, there will be a short presentation at the beginning of each class on the new program. The idea is to gather a list of drivers willing to give rides and pair them up with people who need a lift.

Often when students answer on their intake paperwork that they have reliable transportation, this means a parent, partner, friend or neighbor will give them a ride to and from class. This doesn’t meet the trio’s definition of reliable transportation.

“That changes throughout the course of the (semester),” Clark said about ride availability. “We’re doing anything we can to help those people.”

But even without rides, some students will make sure they attend class.

“A lot of our Norway/South Paris folks walk,” Petroska said. “It’s not fun, but if they want to get here, they’ll get here.” 

The trio shared stories of former students who walked from the far end of Norway to the far end of Paris when classes were in the Fox School and another who walked from Oxford all the way down Route 26 to get to class. But when there is inclement weather or a woman is eight months pregnant, they want to make sure students get to and from class safely. Petroska and other teachers have given students rides home.

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“It’s frustrating for me,” she said. “You have this societal expectation that people will go get an education, they will go get a job and they will succeed in life. They don’t have the credentials, they want to get them, they’re told to get them — but there’s no support system.”

She hopes the new program will lift some of that burden from teachers and students alike and help students help each other out.

“The students that I’ve met in the last 40 years — with very few exceptions — are very willing to help each other out,” said Clark, who previously worked as an English teacher.

On top of the ride-sharing program, Adult Ed was able to secure a 20 percent discount for students using Oxford Hills Taxi to get to and from their classes. Students will need to present their ID to the driver at the time of service.

For more information on the ride-sharing program, call 743-8842 and select option 1, or email [email protected].

[email protected]


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