GARDINER — A grant will allow Gardiner and Maranacook’s adult education programs to start using social media for outreach and offer more services to at-risk high school students, GED students, adults preparing for college and inmates.

The programs received a joint award of $29,825 from the Maine College Access Challenge, a federal grant program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine.

The grant will pay for more classes, more counseling time and more contact with lapsed and potential students.

“We want to be able to increase access to college through the College Transitions process, and for those students that we do reach, we want to keep them engaged long enough so they can accomplish their goals and be ready for a college program,” said Diann Bailey, director of Gardiner Adult Education.

College Transitions prepares adults for college through math and English courses that cover skills students may have lost since leaving high school or never learned in the first place. Maranacook Adult Education Director Deb Bomaster said the grant will pay for more classes next summer.

Adult education receives funding from the state, local school districts, grants and a small amount of income from registration fees.

Many programs are free or low-cost for students.

Gardiner and Maranacook also will add more classes to prepare students for GED exams. The exams are about to be overhauled, as they are once a decade, and students who have not completed all of them will have to start over.

Bomaster said she expects an influx of students trying to finish their certificates in the coming months.

Many students who enroll in programs such as College Transitions or Aspirations — which allows students to take tuition-free courses for Kennebec Valley Community College — do not finish because of family, transportation or health problems that arise, Bailey said.

“A number of adults start those college courses each year, but they don’t finish,” she said. “This grant will help us reel them back in.”

Gardiner and Maranacook will use some of the grant money to train staff and start up social media outreach through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to recruit and retain students.

Bomaster said the goal is to use modes of communication that are comfortable for students. That could include texting.

Other initiatives will increase counseling time for at-risk high school students, people who have earned GED certificates, inmates at the Central Maine Pre-Release Center and teenagers in the Phoenix House rehabilitation program.

Adult education counselors help those groups identify their options and goals for further education and careers.

Gardiner and Maranacook adult education did some similar work two years ago with a Maine College Access Challenge Grant of about $23,000. This time, however, they will focus more on social media, Bomaster said, whereas last time the biggest priority was financial literacy education.

Bailey said her program’s budget is about $295,000 without grants, and Bomaster said her program runs on about $198,000 in state subsidy, local funding and grants.

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