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Ellis starts back-to-school campaign for adults

COVINGTON — Board of Commissioners Chairman Keith Ellis is initiating a campaign to get 1,000 adults to go back to school by next August.

Ellis said adults age 25 and older who are interested in obtaining a GED, associate’s degree or continuing their post secondary educations are his targets. A former educator, Ellis said this is a personal project but he hopes to have support from the commissioners and city of Covington, and he anticipates partnerships with local colleges — Georgia Perimeter College, Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Troy University — along with Nelson Heights and The New Leaf Center, a financial counseling and workforce development facility in Walker’s Bend.

Ellis said his goal is “to get people in a position where they can improve their situation, then the per capita income goes up, people’s ability to spend at retail stores, at restaurants, etc., is all improved

“We’ve got a large population of Newton County residents that don’t have a high school diploma and they don’t have a GED,” he said.

Ellis said having a master’s degree in education has opened many doors for him.

Ellis is still finalizing details of the campaign, which he said will launch in January. By the start of next school year, Ellis said he’d like to see parents and kids buying back-to-school supplies together.

The campaign will not offer financial assistance but interested residents will be guided in finance options as well as the best local program or school to help them achieve their goals, according to Ellis.

“We have all of these great places, and I don’t know how many Newton County people are taking advantage of it,” he said.

Officials have been discussing the lack of a skilled labor force more and more since Baxter International announced it is locating in Stanton Springs. Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall recently said making sure Newton has qualified workers is key to recruiting more businesses.

Ellis said the county has had trouble finding qualified applicants for a Mechanic III position currently open in the Public Works Department. “We’ve had to widen our net to be able to try to find those people,” he said.