Mercy Drive Initiative
Hal Marston GED Program
Chief Demings identified the Palms Apartments as an area of increased crime that
negatively affects the community. She met with the residents in the Mercy Drive
area to seek their input on how to improve their lives as well as their
Shortly thereafter, several committees were formed within the Orlando Police
Department to assist residents in reducing crimes and maintaining livable
neighborhoods. The committees consisted of Property Management, Quality of Life,
and Crime Prevention.
The Quality of Life Committee meetings were very successful in learning the
needs of the residents in the community. The reoccurring comment from the
residents was, “we need to get our education.” After months of aggressively
pursuing criminals in the Mercy Drive corridor, Chief Demings focused on the
social aspect of problems in the area. She tasked the Quality of Life Committee
with implementing a GED Program in the Mercy Drive area targeting the 200 plus
residents in the Palms. In February 2009, Officer Thaddeus T. Jones met with Dr.
Mike Painter, Orlando Tech Education Administrator, in reference to the GED
Program. The most important objective was to have the interest of 30 students
for the program. By the end of this meeting a commitment and partnership was
Officer Thaddeus T. Jones created flyers and placed them in businesses and
residential areas throughout the Mercy Drive area. Officer Jones was listed as
the contact person to sign up for the program. The word began to spread very
quickly throughout the 32805, 32808, 32811 area code. The first GED Orientation
meeting was scheduled for April 15, 2009 and 41 potential students called to
register for the program. This group continued to meet for the months of May and
June with as many as 64 interested persons. On June 15, 2009, 31 students
departed the Hal Marston Center on WD Judge Drive en-route to Orlando Tech. This
was the well anticipated day of registering, testing, and touring the center.
The students completed all testing and received their official OCPS Orlando Tech
student identification. The Hal Marston Center is now an official GED Program
site. Classes will begin in August 2009 and is open to anyone in Orange County.
Officer Thaddeus T. Jones had a meeting with Clifford Thomas, Orange County
Community Action Program Director. His office is located within the Hal Marston
Center. This center offers Pre-K, employability skills training, budgeting and
many other services. Mr. Thomas was informed about the GED program and wanted to
add his office’s component to help enrich the residents’ lives. Once again
another commitment and partnership was formed.
This program is designed to offer any resident an opportunity to enrich their
lives and their community. The components of reducing crime and maintaining
livable neighborhoods are public safety, education, family and transportation.
All these components are addressed in this GED Program with the partnerships of
governmental and private agencies or companies. This program could be a model
for any community throughout the country.
The Hal Marston GED Program is sponsored by the Orlando Police Department,
Orange County Public Schools/Orlando Tech, Orange County Community Action and
City of Orlando Northwest Community Center. The program has been supported with
donations from Commissioner Sam Ings-District 6, Commissioner Daisy Lynum-District
5, Johnsons Wrecker Service, Mears Transportation, Star Meat Market, Publix,
Save Rite Grocery, and Lions Club (College Park Office). One of the most
rewarding incentives is by Johnsons Wrecker Service. The company is donating a
reliable vehicle to the program for one lucky student. All students that achieve
their diploma will have their name put into a drawing for a chance to win the
The Hal Marston GED Program will begin in August and we are looking forward to
our first students receiving their diplomas. Dr. Painter of Orlando Tech has
secured grants for new computers for the new program site. It’s great to see how
government agencies and private companies can all communicate and work together
to make a better life for families to have enjoyable livable neighborhoods.
For information contact Officer.
Thaddeus T. Jones, Orlando Police Department (407) 246-3926.