Share what you’ve learned with others and keep pursuing your education: Those were the messages that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave to New York City students who have turned their lives around by earning their General Education Development (GED) credential.
Duncan met with students from District 79’s adult education program at an alternative school on December 9 to kick off a field study that will modernize the GED and make it a more effective tool in achieving President Obama’s goal that the United States once again lead the world in college completion by the end of the decade.
“It’s important to keep going,” he told the group.
During the group discussion, two young men who emigrated from the Dominican Republic told the Secretary how earning a GED had transformed their lives. “Now I can see my future. Before, I wasn’t serious – I didn’t care,” said one.
The other, a 19 year-old man who emigrated to New York eight years ago, explained how the GED program helped him to achieve structure that he needed after spending time in a court-mandated boot camp. Now, in addition to earning the GED, his accomplishment is affecting the lives of others. He said, “Now my brother is proud of me and he is getting in a GED program.”
Other success stories included a 48 year-old man born and raised in New York City who explained that he returned to school just two months ago because he could not read. A 49-year-old mother of three went to college after passing the GED because she wanted her sons to be proud of her. She is completing her studies to become a teacher.
One particularly poignant story came from a 21-year-old GED program counselor, who after spending two years in prison, enrolled in college to become a social worker. His dream is to start his own nonprofit group to help inmates re-enter society.
“The program I work in is the best I have ever been in,” the former Rykers Island inmate told Duncan. He plans to help others like him to become contributing members of society after they leave prison. “People do not know how to look for help,” he said. “Males are scared to look for help.”
Secretary Duncan affirmed the importance of these success stories for others who also need to return to school. “They need to find other people like themselves who have done it. They need to see that they can reach it, too,” he said.
Read about plans in New York to modernize the GED program and align it to the Common Core.
Cheryl L. Keenan, who directs the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, is a former teacher.