In order to have the greatest impact on the Paterson homeless community, Eva’s Village and the City must develop a peer outreach method by which former GED students convince their peers to participate in the program by demonstrating how their lives have benefited from obtaining the GED diploma. This is a crucial factor in ensuring the success of student participation in the GED program because it is proven to motivate clients to pass the exam, primarily because they feel inspired by the success of others who were able to overcome similar financial and emotional obstacles through higher education.
For example, in Whatcom County, Washington, local schools Bellingham Technical College and Skagit Valley College rendered their GED homeless program successful by implementing an outreach program targeting local communities. Students were trained to be spokespersons in their community to reach out to those they came into contact with at places such as day care facilities, drug and alcohol treatment centers, churches, and other community groups (Goto et al., 2009). To aid these students, print and video materials were designed to feature students from targeted communities using successful current and former students. A close-up photo of each student selected and a brief biography describing their background and path to success were used at recruitment events. Aids encouraged some students to identify with those highlighted and, in turn, these students were used on videos giving their testimonials on how seeing others like them achieve their educational goals helped them make the decision to do so as well (Goto et al., 2009).
Prospective students’ identification with past students allowed them to achieve success; a higher percentage of these students were able to transition from Integrated Basic Skills Training (I-BEST) programs into college-level classes compared to students who were not exposed to such advertising. In addition, retention rates among the I-BEST students were the highest, with the automotive technology program having over an 80% retention rate (Goto et al., 2009). This data underscores the importance of positive peer influence on students enrolled in the GED program by illustrating that outreach encourages students to challenge themselves in their pursuit of higher education.
Thus, peer outreach is an integral component to a potential free GED program for Paterson’s homeless because it incentives them to improve their lives through schooling, and demonstrates the world of job opportunities that a high-school equivalency degree brings for the underprivileged.