Breaking down barriers; Rolph helps adults continue education

Published 11:47 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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By Abigail Roberts


STANFORD – For 22 years, Melissa Rolph has helped adults of all walks of life return to the classroom to complete their high school education.

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In that time, Rolph estimates that her program has helped 1,200 or more local people graduate.

Kentucky Adult Education offers educational, training and career resources in every county of the Commonwealth, Rolph said.

“We are funded to serve people seeking high school equivalency, GED (General Education Development),” she said. “We do workforce development, workforce trainings, english as a second language. We work with students that are going to college, with some of their early classwork.”

Everything they offer is at no cost, Rolph said.

A lot of graduates were once inmates at the Lincoln County Regional Jail, which is now closed. Rolph used to spend a lot of her time there, educating inmates and helping them gain their GED.

Rolph and the jail used to host graduation ceremonies for the inmates who passed, and allowed them to invite their families to the ceremony.

It’s something that Rolph said she misses, now that the jail is closed. Since the jail has been demolished, Rolph said she now teaches in rehabilitation facilities.

“I teach in rehab at Isaiah House in Harrodsburg,” she said. “This is my first year there.”

Since the women are only there for 28-day cycles, Rolph said she focuses on career development in the rehab facilities rather than GED.

But the days she’s not at Isaiah House, she is in Stanford helping people study, take pre-tests and test for their final GED.

Rolph said the COVID-19 pandemic stalled progress in adult education and the program has been trying to recover from that. The pandemic, which shut down most offices to in-person traffic, forced programs to move online.

“We did Google Classrooms, Zoom trainings, we did all kinds of things,” she said.

Now that the pandemic is over, Rolph said she is back in the classroom, welcoming adults to take advantage of the free resources that are available.

“People don’t know what they need, until they need it,” she said.

While the GED test is offered online, the requirements are often hard to meet, Rolph said, and it’s not free.

For those who would rather take it in person, Rolph and others are in the office ready to help.

It’s been a rewarding 22 years, she said. Rolph has met many people, of all ages, and helped them get back on their educational feet – at their own pace.

“We’ve had young’ins come in and do it in two days. We’ve had people here in the past, that have been here a year, year-and-a-half, and we admire those people,” she said.

Some people take longer because they work full time.

“Sometimes we get a community of learners that become very social with everyone,” she said. “People need a place to fall. They need relationship. We have mothered and grandmothered so many people. We’ve done everything we can for them. Sometimes they quit, and then they come back maybe two or three years later. We pick right up where we were.”

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” is a popular educational quote from Dr. James Comer and it’s one that Rolph loves.

“I always think about that and what relationship looks like to different people,” she said. “Some people actually need a hand held. We hear so many life stories. We have cried with so many people who get their GED and said ‘I never thought I could do this’ or ‘you didn’t give up on.’”

It’s a judgement-free zone, Rolph said, and it’s open to all adults.

Rolph loves seeing student success and helping people accomplish what they didn’t think they could.

“If we just have a small part in that, if it was one thing we said, a barrier we helped to break, if we were able to help them see who they truly are…that makes us happy. That makes our days coming in a little better,” Rolph said.

Lincoln County Adult Education is located at 305 Danville Avenue, upstairs in the Student Support Services building. To reach the office by phone, call 606-365-9665 or email