Kimberly Phillips, Vanessa McDowell, Dennis Wofford

Associates advance in careers with GED program

An innovative program supported by Spartanburg Regional Foundation is giving employees who lack a high school diploma another shot at their education – and, in some cases, a direct opportunity to advance in their careers.

“Most employment opportunities in the healthcare system require a high school diploma or a GED,” said Gloria Graves, coordinator of student programs with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. “We realized that we had a number of associates who were hard workers with the potential to become leaders in the healthcare system who needed to get their GED.”

Graves worked with environmental services director Ginger Gregory and other department managers to come up with a solution. With the help of a grant from the Foundation, the GED program kicked off in 2012.

The Student Program Fund, managed by the Foundation and supported largely by SRHS employees donations, provides ongoing support. The healthcare system partners with the Adult Learning Center so that students can work one-on-one with instructor Kevin Jameson.

Three employees who have taken part in the GED program shared their stories: Wofford, McDowell and Phillips are each known for a strong work ethic and leadership traits. But their career opportunities were limited, because they hadn’t finished high school.

Dennis Wofford, Team Leader of Supply Chain Services

When Dennis Wofford’s girlfriend became pregnant, they were both in high school. She continued her studies, but he dropped out of school to earn money and help care for the baby.

When Wofford’s supervisor encouraged him to enroll in the GED program, he jumped at the opportunity. He and his high school girlfriend are now married and have two children. Wofford was eager to grow in his career.

With his GED in hand, Wofford was promoted to team leader in the supply department and is earning better pay.

“It was worth it,” Wofford said.

Kimberly Phillips, Distribution Coordinator of Supply Chain Services

Kim Phillips dropped out of school to marry her boyfriend. He died not long after they had a child together.

One advantage of the program is its flexibility and convenience. Employees can work on their studies when their schedules allow, and they don’t have to leave the Spartanburg Medical campus. 

Phillips wanted to finish her high school education for a long time. She was a senior when she dropped out, but found it difficult to go back to school while raising children.

“I was doing night school, but it was taking too long,” she said. “I wanted to get it done.”

Like Wofford, Phillips earned a promotion in the supply department after completing her GED.

Vanessa McDowell, Transport Receptionist Clerk, Transportation Services

Vanessa McDowell quit high school after becoming a parent.

McDowell, who works in transportation services, had not gone as far in school as Phillips and Wofford had. It took her longer to complete the GED program. She worked closely with Jamison, and her persistence eventually paid off.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “I believe my pursuit of my GED has inspired my boys in college to further their own education.”  

Helping SRHS Associates Succeed

Phil Feisal, president of Spartanburg Medical Center, believes the GED program reflects the healthcare system’s commitment to its employees and the community.

“We feel that it is important to give our employees a chance to further their education and, thus, further their opportunities,” Feisal said. “In the case of the GED program, there are often circumstances that prevented an individual from finishing high school. For those that so desire, we want to give them an opportunity to work on their GED with our professional, emotional and financial support.”

The program is available to associates and their family members. The inclusion of family members supports the overall quality of life of associates while promoting the cause of education in the area, Graves said.

“As one of the largest employers in the Upstate, we believe that we should play a role in the advancement of careers for people in our community,” Feisal said.

Much of the funding for the GED program has come from SRHS associates.

 “I am so proud of our generous employees who recognize the value of a GED and contribute to the Student Development Fund,” Feisal said.