Two High School Graduates Reflect on their Educational Experience

By July 6, 2017Blog

June is a month full of celebrating graduates and their accomplishments. Two New Haven residents (Julian and Maria ), both at different stages in life reflected on the importance of education and how it shaped them. 

On June 22,  I graduated from James Hillhouse High School and I will  attend Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. As my time in high school comes to a close, I wanted to take the time to reflect on my school experience and share my hopes for those who will come after me.

When I attend Johnson & Wales I plan to pursue a degree in Sports Management. I know that if it weren’t for my hard work, my mother’s advocacy for my education, and access to quality teachers, guidance counselors, and  mentors, I would not have made these accomplishments. I know that with these resources I am prepared for my future success.

Similar to many teenagers, I ran into a few stumbling blocks along the way. However, had I not had the support and encouragement from those around me to excel in school, I know the outcome could have been different for me. While I am heartened by those who pushed me to greatness, I know not every student is given the same opportunities. I believe it is up to our state leaders and our community to advocate for my peers, for their success will only benefit our state’s future economy.  

While it’s a reasonable assumption that 86 percent of Connecticut parents  have confidence their child will graduate from high school and attend college, I was surprised to learn that out of 100 high school graduates, six year later, only 49 earned a college degree, 23 enrolled in college but dropped out and 18 never enrolled in college. In fact, many high school students are not prepared for the rigour of college-level work and are forced to take remedial classes, which causes higher dropout rates and costs our state money. It’s also clear that the jobs of today are rapidly  changing and our state needs a workforce that is prepared to take these jobs.

I owe so much to my mother and those who were the driving forces behind where I am today in my educational career. I want to come back to Connecticut and invest in the community that I grew up in and give back to those who helped me. As I look back on my education, I am grateful for my time at Hillhouse and all that I have acquired to take with me to college and beyond. I have high hopes for my own future and those to follow.

In order to see improvements, we need to invest in those who are the future of state’s economic and social vitality, and that means raising our voices  access to a high quality education.

I am 38 years old and just received my high school diploma through the National External Diploma Program (NEDP) on June 8. As a teenager and a young mother, I ran into some obstacles that caused me to drop out of school. When I had my own children, I knew I wanted better for them. I wanted my three boys to understand that if they put their minds to something, they can accomplish anything.

I strive to teach my sons that receiving a quality education is their key to a successful future. It’s clear that our state’s workforce is changing rapidly. I want my children and all of Connecticut’s students to be prepared for this new workforce. If we want to see our state flourish, we need our students to be prepared to return to Connecticut and contribute to their communities financially, which means having access to a quality education.

As a mother, my hope for my sons is that they complete high school and move on to college. In fact, just the act of completing high school will be a contribution to Connecticut’s economy. High school dropouts cost our state almost four times more than other citizens on health care, corrections, and welfare programs. They also earn millions less in a lifetime than their college-going peers. High school dropouts cost Connecticut $900 million in lost revenue and additional expenses, annually. While the numbers are are startling, change is possible. Dropping out of high school doesn’t happen without warning signs. Nearly a quarter of Connecticut school-age students show signs of being are at risk for dropping out. Fortunately, early re-engagement can turn things around.

All parents want better for our children, and we must lead by example. I hope that when I received my high school diploma, my boys were proud of what they saw.  While I ran into some obstacles along my journey, I was able to accomplish my goal. NEDP was more than just “school” for me; this program was a life-changing experience that will assist me in my growth personally and professionally.