It was truly a pleasure to attend yet another annual high school completion ceremony a few weeks ago. But it wasn’t at a local high school; it was at Fox Valley Technical College. This was a special year in that it marked 25 years of awarding the high school credential (GED or HSED) by the College. About 10,000 people have earned this credential at FVTC over that 25 year period! In recent years, just under 500 individuals have completed their GED or HSED with us annually.
I’m always fascinated by the incredible life circumstances that have affected these individuals and what prevented them from graduating with their high school class. Over the years we have had people ages 20-90 from all walks of life complete this credential. Sometimes frequent family moves got in the way of completing high school, or years ago young people were required to work on the farm to help sustain a family. Sometimes teen pregnancy interfered with completing school, and sometimes drugs and alcohol brought young lives to a complete standstill. Some individuals are immigrants to this country and perhaps had little opportunity for an education until now. Some have moved here from impoverished urban centers where violence and crime were everyday occurrences. There are as many stories as there are individuals, but they all have shared a common goal–a new start that comes with completing the most fundamental educational credential–a high school diploma.
What’s so special about this annual ceremony is the obvious pride and joy that family members and friends exude as we congratulate these students. This is an accomplishment that, for many, has taken almost a lifetime to achieve and one very worthy of special celebration.
In this skills-based economy, a high school diploma is a prerequisite for most employment opportunities and critically important to continuing one’s education further. Bottom line, it’s a major stepping stone for career progression and a better quality of life. In fact, one of our student speakers that evening had completed her HSED, then completed our Nursing Assistant Program, and is now planning to pursue the Associate Degree Nursing Program to become an RN. The world of possibilities will now open up to this young woman and her family!
None of this happens, of course, without the hard work and dedication of our Adult Basic Education (ABE) faculty. I admire their ability to work with such a wide range of students, to help them overcome their learning anxieties, and their persistence and patience in helping students achieve this wonderful accomplishment. My hat is off to both the individuals who have reached this milestone and our ABE faculty for 25 years of great work!