Stepping up with higher education
For Gladys Rodriguez and Natalie Sanchez, earning their high school equivalency certificate is just the beginning.
Both Springfield Housing Authority residents earned their HiSET certificates – formally known as the High School Equivalency Test – through a state-funded program offered jointly through the SHA, Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College.
The program is open to anyone who wants to resume education after leaving high school. At SHA, residents are encouraged and supported through the program.
“We’re happy to assist in whatever way we can to help our residents pursue education,” said SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan, who attended the ceremony at STCC.
“It’s rewarding and exhilarating to see people like Gladys and Natalie working so hard and reaching a goal like this,” Jordan added. “Congratulations to them, and to all the HiSET graduates.”
Rodriguez and Sanchez were among 43 men and women earning their HiSET certificates this year through this program.
Though their paths were different, both women spoke of determination and perseverance in their quest to return to their educations. And both are headed for more learning – Sanchez is already taking courses at STCC, and Rodriguez is enrolled to begin in September.
“I want to get a college degree and I am already taking classes,” said Sanchez, who is 29 and the mother of two children. She lives with her family at Duggan Park Apartments.
Sanchez left school after completing the 10th grade. She attended both the High School of Science and Technology in Springfield, and the Westover Job Corps Center in Springfield.
“I always knew I wanted to go back and get this finished, and I did it,” she said with a smile.
Her own quest to return to school was made more challenging by the fact that she has kept her full-time job at a local law firm throughout. She takes classes both online and on the campus at STCC, and is switching her major from Criminal Justice to Business Administration.
Rodriguez has three young sons – ages 6, 5 and nine months – who helped inspire her to complete her high schooling. She left the Roger Putnam Vocational Technical Academy during her sophomore year.
A resident of Reed Village Apartments, Rodriguez also gave credit for her return to Yaritza Perez-Luna, who is Housing First case manager at SHA, helping formerly homeless families into housing and stable lives.
“Yaritza really made all the difference for me,” said Rodriguez. “She helped me along the way and urged me to go back to school.”
Earning her HiSET certificate will be a launch pad for her, a start for a college degree and a better life, she said. She starts at STCC this fall.
“This feels really good to me, a big accomplishment,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great thing for my children, to see me working hard towards such a good goal.”
Supporting Sanchez and Rodriguez at the ceremony were their families, Jordan, Perez-Luna, SHA Deputy Executive Director Nicole Contois, Director of Resident Services Pamela Wells, Adult Basic Education Instructor Sarah Knight and ESL/Computer Instructor Christopher Trevethan.
Wells stressed the importance and impact of the HiSET program, and what it can mean to people like Sanchez and Rodriguez.
“The Hi-Set program is an important part of the array of services that Springfield Housing Authority offers its residents. These services are meant to assist our residents in obtaining their goals,” Wells said.
“Both Natalie and Gladys are examples of residents who were determined to make a better life for their families. We are extremely proud of their accomplishments and will follow them as they take the next steps in their journey,” she added.
Perez-Luna offered high admiration and praise for Rodriguez.
From the first day I met Gladys I knew that she would be a person who would take advantage of the program,” Perez-Luna said.
“I knew that she had so much potential to become something amazing. She just needed someone to believe in her and give her that extra push. It’s a pleasure to be able to work with Gladys and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead of her. She is and will be an inspiration to many,” Perez-Luna added.
The HiSET test, formerly known as GED or General Education Diploma, includes a more challenging series of exams in mathematics, science, social studies and English, which breaks down into reading and writing.
With oversight from Knight, SHA is able to provide the HiSET courses at Sullivan, thanks to a state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grant and in collaboration with STCC and HCC. Classes are given on the campuses and at other locations.
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