Success is a journey


Success is often a measure of how far we go on our own personal journey. I was reminded of that fact recently at a graduation ceremony for the Aspire program at Great Oaks Career Campuses.

The students are High School Equivalency (HSE), formerly known as GED, and Adult Diploma graduates. The Adult Diploma program is unique to Ohio, and it allows adult learners to become certified in a career field while finishing their HSE.

The student speakers talked about their personal journeys and the roadblocks that they overcame. “When I was a sophomore in high school, I got pregnant,” said Kim. She took a year off and then returned to high school. “Going to school and having a baby went well at first, but then things became more complicated.” Kim had to leave school again, and children, family life, and a series of jobs got in the way. “I decided somewhere along the way that I could never need my GED and the fear of failure got me to the point where I didn’t even think about it anymore.” But two decades later, she walked into an adult class and in just four months of hard work, became a high school graduate.

Rolando’s story starts very differently. A 2007 refugee from Guatemala, he needed to learn English to be a part of his new country. “The first day of class, I could not even say ‘Hi’ to my teacher,” he said. Through 1400 hours of class time, he completed all five levels of the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program, often walking miles to class after working long hours. He then decided to earn his diploma. More than two years later, Rolando is a graduate.

Maggie was working, but a 2015 car accident set her life in a different direction. She could no longer do the physical labor the job required, and without a high school diploma, her choices were very limited. “I was faced with going back to school,” she said. “I was nervous and scared; I had not been in a classroom in a really long time.” She joined the Adult Diploma program, but it was tough at first. “I had the time and motivation, but I was truly lacking in self-confidence—especially in math.” The first qualification test to enter the certification program made her face those fears, and her instructor helped. “I was so nervous, but Holly kept assuring me I was ready. And it was easier to go take the test than fight with her,” she laughed. Maggie earned her diploma, and earned national certification as a Health Unit Coordinator. Then, as often happens, life took a different direction. She realized that a healthcare career wasn’t for her. “But if the Adult Diploma program taught me anything,” she said, “It was how to have faith in myself, how to overcome obstacles and disappointment and just keep moving forward.” Maggie is now in a management position at a local bank.

These adults’ struggles are real, and could happen to many of us. What matters is that each of those graduates persevered. They moved forward—often after repeated setbacks. And after months, or years, or decades, their persistence paid off and they walked across the stage, already successful and prepared for the next step in their lives.

It was an emotional and uplifting evening. I’m proud of these graduates and of the Great Oaks teachers and staff who played a part in these outstanding adults’ success. If you’d like more information about these programs and how they can help you or someone you know, go to

Harry Snyder is the President/CEO of Great Oaks Career Campuses.

By Harry Snyder

Guest Columnist

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