The Face of Adult Education

“Act as if what you say and what you do makes a difference, because it does.”

On April 3rd and 4th adult educators from all corners of Connecticut gathered in Mystic for the 2014 Connecticut Association of Adult and Continuing Education Conference.  (CAACE) In Connecticut approximately 11% of the population does not have high school equivalency. In addition, 7% of the population of our population is not proficient in English.  Adult Education programs address the educational needs of these learners, providing the expertise and support necessary to guide students toward their educational goals.

With the implementation of higher educational standards and Connecticut’s changing workforce needs, the importance of adult education as a bridge to success is becoming even more necessary. During the conference, conversations amongst educators centered around increasingly difficult educational standards, the revised and more challenging GED credential and the role of adult educators in transitioning students toward post-secondary education and workforce success.

The highlight and most compelling portion of the conference was the student award ceremony.  This year four students were acknowledged as a 2014 Student of the Year.  For each of them, success was only realized by overcoming great obstacles:  This is the Face of Adult Education.

Dane Scates from Stamford Adult Education “wowed” the audience with her strong rendition of the National Anthem.  Dane lost her mother as a teenager and battled debilitating asthma that eventually caused her to drop out of high school.  Years later, despite ongoing struggles Dane persevered and worked towards completing her High School Diploma.  Now looking forward, Dane states, “I want a career where I can make difference.  I have a mission and that is to create change for the better in our children’s lives, as they are our future.”

Luz Santana moved to Holyoke Massachusetts when she was just fourteen years old.  Language barriers made it difficult for her to be successful in school.  Years later she moved to Connecticut and while working full time began ESL classes in West Hartford.  She not only progressed in her ESL classes, but also completed her high school requirements through the National External Diploma Program.  The NEDP allows working adults to complete their high school requirements through the completion of a personal educational portfolio. This route to high school completion is challenging and ultimately proves mastery of high school concepts and knowledge. Her positive attitude not only led her to success but inspired others to do the same.

Aicha Kalapo has been attending Vernon Regional Adult Education.  Aicha was born in Sierra Leone and raised in Mali.  Her schooling ended at age ten so that she could help at home with her younger siblings.  At nineteen she arrived in the US with her young son. With the help of her sponsor family she began ESL classes.  Aicha worked two jobs and became proficient in English.  With persistence and determination she eventually earned her high school equivalency.  In the fall of 2014 she will be attending Manchester Community College with the hope of a bright future for herself and her son.

Jessica Ortiz attends East Hartford Adult and Continuing Education.  Jessica left high school at age 17 with just 6.5 credits left to complete.  After 15 years of raising children and working full time Jessica went back to school at East Hartford Adult Education. Her teachers describe her as always prepared and motivated.  Jessica not only works through her own learning challenges but is also an inspiration and cheerleader for others.  She is on track to graduate in June of this year!  But that is not the end.  She would like to continue her education so that one day she might become a social worker and continue to be a guiding light for others.

Each of these students represents hundreds more all over the state.  Many are also working one or two jobs, while going to school so that their American Dream can come true.  Many have faced overwhelming obstacles as children and adults. Behind each success is the persistence, dedication and support of adult educators!

As stated by Christine Bjork, one of the 2014 CAACE Adult Educators of the Year, “The one thing that all students are seeking is acceptance, respect and success.”  Congratulations to these students and all the adult educators who practice these words each day!

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