Second Chance at Education Has Gwinnett Tech Student Soaring with the EAGLES

When Heidi Fielden first stepped onto the Gwinnett Technical College campus in Lawrenceville, she was not thinking about career options or degrees. The Snellville resident’s priority was to earn her high school diploma credential or GED. Now, with that goal reached, the young woman and mother to a son, Kai, is reaching for new goals at the college and wearing a new title – Gwinnett Tech EAGLE.

“There are 1.2 million adults in Georgia who don’t have their high school diploma or GED,” Fielden said. “Until last summer, I was a part of that statistic.”

EAGLE, which stands for Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education, acknowledges the outstanding accomplishments of Georgians who enroll in the Technical College System of Georgia’s 28 Adult Education programs in order to study for and earn their GED credential. More than 71,000 men and women took part in Georgia’s adult education programs last year, and 15,450 received their GED credential.

Fielden earned her GED earlier this year while simultaneously earning a technical certificate of credit in Business through the Accelerating Opportunity Program.  The program, which began at Gwinnett Tech in the summer of 2013, allows students to study for both their high school credential and one of several pathways to better prepare students for a career. After finishing this program Fielden began pursuing an associate degree. Her plans for the future include wanting to become a dental hygienist.

“Adult education has been a stepping stone to the future for me,” she said. “I have learned many life lessons from my experience at Gwinnett Tech. It has given me the opportunity and confidence to become a leader to my peers.”

To earn a GED students must study and pass exams that include language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. For Fielden, it was the support system she and her classmates created that was the most helpful factor in reaching her goal. After coming in early to study one week’s lessons, Fielden formed a study group of classmates that met twice a week. Not only were they holding each other accountable, she said, but they were each other’s cheerleaders. That was not to say that the process was easy.

“Blood, sweat and tears is not just an analogy to me anymore,” she explained. “But I’ve never met anyone as passionate about education as the faculty and staff at Gwinnett Tech.”

Each March, the 28 local EAGLE winners are the guests of a three-day conference in Atlanta that ends with a lunch banquet in their honor. One will be selected as to serve as Georgia’s EAGLE ambassador for adult education.  He or she will speak to students, civic groups, legislators and others about lifelong learning and the importance of earning a GED credential.  

Gwinnett Technical College offers more than 150 degree, diploma and certificate program options that can be completed in two years or less. For more information, visit or call 770-962-7580.