Tampa ARC‘s GED Instructor Uses Education to Change Lives
By: Laura Poff
The Tampa, Florida, Adult Rehabilitation Center partnered with Hillsborough County to provide a full-time adult education teacher who teaches a GED class out of a classroom in the center.
The classes are provided at no cost to beneficiaries, who take classes in the evenings, after completing work therapy.
Tom Scagglione, a retired loss prevention and safety director, has served as the center-based GED instructor since the partnership began five years ago. Prior to having an in-house teacher, beneficiaries would have to attend classes surrounded by some of the behaviors they had come to the center to avoid. Once beneficiaries complete their GED, they are able to take vocational training and community college classes that will help them to build new lives and careers after recovery.
Scagglione and the center’s program director, Chris Nicely, both have GEDs, so they “know the struggle that it is to go to a classroom and try to work it into your life when you have other concerns.” He is able to connect personally with his students and has become an important member of the recovery center’s community.
“One of my students came to the center with all of his belongings tied to a bicycle that he was pushing around,” he said. The man had lost his wife and custody of his son due to drug and alcohol abuse. When he came to the center, testing revealed that he had a fifth or sixth grade education. By the time he left the center, he had earned his diploma.
“He interviewed for a disaster management position and was hired as the supervisor of the disaster
warehouse. He got his own housing, went through courses to regain custody of his son, and he has a brand new car.”
Not every story turns out that way, but for every student who relapses, another opens a business, continues his education and improves his circumstances.
“We’ve had great success with the program here, but I’ve also had success here personally,” Scagglione said.
When his own nephew was in need of help, he was admitted to the adult rehabilitation center for a six-month stay. He has been sober for two years.
“That experience afforded us an opportunity to grow into The Salvation Army and to become part of the family,” Scagglione said. “We are making slow but steady changes in people’s lives.”