Many kids are looking for certification to help make them employable, but to obtain a GED in New York, you must be at least 19 years old and one year removed from school or a former member of an already-graduated class. Still, the number of 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds enrolled in GED preparatory classes has sharply increased in most programs. At Flatbush Development Corporation's GED program, the number of 16- and 17-year-old students doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent in 18 months. In another program, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, 17-year-olds comprise approximately 70 percent of the classes.
Programs like Flatbush have complained that younger students are difficult in the classroom because they lack mental and social maturity. Behavioral problems have prompted a few programs to exclude younger students because they lack the internal motivation that most adults have to get their GED. The younger students have intense needs that go far beyond education, says Greer. While a GED prep course may not be the best remedy for teens bored or frustrated by high school, Greggory Mitchell, a 15-year veteran of adult education, maintains the "kids are underrated." "The educational system doesn't put great emphasis on inspiring its students," he says.