Through That Open Door: HSE Graduates Celebrate

A group of 28 students got to check off a big accomplishment as they received their high school equivalency (HSE) diplomas from Beaufort County Community College on May 23. The ceremony also included two students who received their United States citizenship, a first for the college. Nineteen students in the HSE program were inducted into the National Adult Honor Society at the ceremony. The students have different reasons for completing the program and vary in age, but the result will be a sense of accomplishment, a chance for higher wages and a first step to advancing their education.

Students work at their own pace with the guidance of an instructor and, since 2017, can even participate in the program online. The program provides a second chance to adults who did not complete high school in the traditional manner. Some of them left high school to join the workforce or start families. The graduating class even included family members, as grandmother Pamela Gibbs and granddaughter Bryanna Weston both received their diplomas.

“Many employers will not even consider a candidate without a high school education,” said Heather Collins, director of the Career and College Readiness Program at BCCC. “This accomplishment will broaden the pool of jobs these students can access.”

For some students, the option is less economic than personal. Achieving an HSE can boost their self-confidence and remove a past regret. Guest speaker Denny Bolafka talked about her own struggles returning to college later in life and with a learning disability. She opened her arms to the crowd at the end, citing lyrics from R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”. She encouraged the students to take their excitement from the evening and enroll in college courses.

The ceremony also celebrated two students who went through naturalization to become United States citizens. Gloria Adams and Adriana Briley took the oath of citizenship in front of the crowd. Tania Lilley Corey, English language acquisition instructor for BCCC, led the two through the process. She explained the paperwork, costs and rigorous testing involved in becoming a citizen. This marked the first time that BCCC has helped students through the naturalization process. This service is available through its English language acquisition program.

Nineteen current students were inducted into the National Adult Honor Society. Hannah Alligood, Alexia Baker, Noemi Carillo-Cuen, Terry Dixon, Eduviges Flores, Joyce, Geddings, Ashley Granados, Benjamin Jackson, Jorge Solano-Gomez, Heidy Urbalejo-Cruz, Christopher Williamson and Altonio Windley are all current HSE students who were inducted, while Depriece Corey, Yushika Gordon, Joseph Jackson, Annie Keyes, Ebony Moorer Gonzalez, Rosa Morales and Angelica Reyes-Cruz were among the graduates.

Students in a HSE class work at different paces to prepare for testing in different academic areas. With the online option, students are self-paced, having directives geared to their needs each week. If they test out of an area, they can move on. The online option allows students to work around their family and work schedules and save gas by not having to drive to campus.

These additional graduates will also benefit the service area as a whole. According to the latest data in 2016, 84.6 percent of Beaufort County adults were high school graduates, up from 83.5 percent in 2015. In Washington and Hyde Counties 79.3 and 80.6 percent of adults, respectively, held a college degree in 2016. In Tyrrell County, that rate rose to 73 percent in 2016, an increase of four percentage points. Employers looking to locate in an area consider factors such as this to see if an educated workforce is readily available.

While improvements in K-12 are yielding higher graduation rates, HSE programs are key to boosting the number of adults with high school degrees in the region. The availability of an online program as well as classes at the Hyde County Davis Center in Engelhard and the Washington County Center in Roper are ways that BCCC hopes to increase access to the HSE program across the service area.

To get started on your high school equivalency today, contact Heather Collins at 252-940-6298.