Credit Diploma Program
Adult High School Completion Program is offered FREE of charge for Stratford and Trumbull residents and $25 for up to five students from other towns.
Any Stratford and Trumbull adult resident without a high school diploma may call Stratford Continuing Education at 385-4270 for more information.
CREDIT DIPLOMA PROGRAM
If you are a few credits shy of a high school diploma, this program is best for you. You can earn credits by:
- enrolling in evening classes
- verifying military service
- earn credits on line with courses approval by counselor
- 17 years of age and older. Individuals under 18 years of age should contact the Stratford Continuing Education administrator to determine their eligibility.
- Officially withdrawn from school
How do I start?
- Obtain a copy of your transcript from the last high school you attended and schedule an appointment with a credit diploma counselor at 203-385-4270, Monday - Thursday 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
This evening program held at Wooster Middle School is free and for Stratford and Trumbull residents only.
Birth Date (from Driver License, State of CT Identification Card, Passport or Official Birth Certificate) and proof of Stratford/and or Trumbull residency along with your Official Transcript from the last high school attended must be provided upon registration. Click on the Community Calendar for registration dates, times and requirements. Childcare is not available
CHARISMA MARIE DIAZ
Charisma Marie Diaz proudly accepted her diploma on May 4, 2017, at the 34th Stratford Continuing Education Commencement ceremony. Charisma stood in front of her classmates and gave an inspiring speech about perseverance and the importance of this milestone in their lives. Richard Hageman, Program Administrator, awarded Charisma the Jane Serafinowicz Hageman scholarship, in honor and memory of his mother.
When Charisma joined the Credit Diploma Program in September of 2016, she came in with reservations. Charisma had a difficult upbringing, which led her to drop out of high school. She said “Day school just was not for me. I could not wake up in the morning when I needed to. I could not give my school work my all.” Charisma was close to obtaining her high school diploma with 17 credits and passed both placement assessments with flying colors. It was clear to all that Charisma was a bright student with potential; she just needed to see it for herself. After a short time, Charisma fit right in. During her time with Continuing Education, she took online and traditional classes. She worked many hours during the week and still came to the program with a smile. She was nervous about starting a new chapter in her life, but excited to earn her high school diploma. Through the many difficulties of life, Charisma was able to finish her high school career with honors. When asked to give advice to future graduates, Charisma said “Don’t use your personal battles as an excuse.”
Charisma is now living in Maine and has joined the Job Corps. She is currently studying to become a Certified Medical Assistant and expects to be finished with her education in June of 2018. The staff at Stratford Continuing Education look forward to Charisma’s continued success. It is clear that the teachers and administrators were proud to have her as a student and even more proud to see her begin a successful future.
When Renee Doran entered the Credit Diploma Program, we knew there was something special about her. She was excited yet timid. Little did we know eleven credits and two years later, we would be congratulating her on her accomplishments as she walked across the stage at graduation. An added bonus for Renee is that she was now graduating with her daughter, Amber.
Renee attended our classes Tuesday-Thursday from 4:30 - 9:00 pm each semester. She gave her classwork everything she could. Some subjects did not come easily for Renee. In the past, she struggled in English classes but the teachers in our program gave her the encouragement to continue on. She worked hard, was determined, and is proud of all that she has overcome. She is overjoyed to share her success with her family. She has always wanted to prove to her family that she is more than a mom and housewife and now she has. She is a high school graduate!
Renee's educational background is different from many of our other students. Renee is forty nine years old and dropped out of Bunnell High School in 1985. Her primary reason for dropping out of school was that she wanted to get a job. Shortly after withdrawing, she began working for a locksmith company. In 1993, Renee had her first daughter and in 1996 she had her second. Even while working for Shelton Bus Company for nearly 18 years, she always thought about getting her high school diploma.She felt as though she was settling in life and wanted more. That's when she made the bold move to look into our program. She noticed an article in the Stratford Star and decided to come in for registration.
Renee spoke about the many times she felt discouraged and wanted to give up on her dream of becoming a high school graduate. Throughout her time in the Credit Diploma Program, she suffered the loss of both of her parents and her sister. She went through some family difficulties and became a grandmother. When Renee felt like giving up, she would walk into Mr. Hageman's office for words of encouragement. Renee said that he pushed her to succeed. He told her that hard times don't last, but a high school diploma will.
When we see Renee now, we see a totally different person than we saw in January. in January she was focused and could see the finish line. Now she is beaming with excitement. Now she knows that she has made it. Renee has reached her goal and is ready to move forward. Renee says that she is proud to select the box on her job applications that state that yes; she does have a high school diploma. Renee is looking forward to expanding her knowledge and plans on becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. Currently she is enjoying some time off from school by spending quality time with her family and granddaughter.
Miguel Franqui officially earned his high school diploma in December, 2014. Along with his other classmates, he chose to participate in the graduation ceremony at Stratford High School on Thursday, May 7, 2015. This special moment is one he and his family anticipated for a long time.
Born in Camuy, Puerto Rico, Miguel moved to the United States at the age of five. His parents believed moving here would provide a better life and environment to raise a family. It was a difficult transition for Miguel because his primary language was Spanish so he was forced to learn English in the classroom. His struggles continued because he moved to various schools throughout his childhood.
Once he became a high school student, Miguel matured and began taking education more seriously. However, at age seventeen, Miguel became a father for the first time. This compelled him to drop out of school in order to support his family rather than complete his education. He managed to find jobs, but always searched for one with a higher salary. He knew education was the key to catapult him to the next level.
In time, Miguel realized school needed to become a priority again. He thought more about his future, lack of job opportunities, and being a role model for his children. Miguel recognized his options would be limited without his high school diploma.
With the encouragement of his family, he made the decision to return to school. He knew balancing his roles of husband, father, employee, and student would be a challenging one. Miguel made a commitment to finish what he started. He attended credit diploma classes Monday through Thursday from six to nine in the evening. In addition, Miguel took advantage of our adult virtual high school classes and completed 10 classes independently on-line. This allowed him to finish his high school credits at an advanced rate. Miguel had exceptional attendance along with an incredible work ethic. His dedication to his classwork was apparent earning honors numerous times in the program.
Miguel credits motivation and determination as crucial factors to his success. His goals include pursuing his education in an automotive program at a local community college. In addition, he hopes to manage a business of his own in the future. Miguel is especially honored to receive his high school diploma in memory of his sons, Angel and Miguel. Angel passed away in 2010 after suffering from an auto immune deficiency disease. Miguel received a lung and bone marrow transplant, but lost his courageous battle in April 2015. Stratford Continuing Education extends our deepest sympathy to Miguel and his family.
Sue Irizarry joined the GED Program in September of 2014 to obtain her high school diploma so that she could further her education and her career. To date, Sue has passed the Social Studies as well as the Language Arts portions of the GED exam; notable accomplishments given the short time she has been with the program.
Presently, Sue lives with her thirteen-year-old daughter and three year-old son. Her desire to finish her education was put on hold in favor of providing for her daughter, whom she is raising as a single parent. Making herself available to help with her daughter’s homework and also of stressing the importance of completing school are high priorities for Sue. Her tenacity in wanting to be a positive role model has driven her to be an inspiring example for her daughter to follow.
Seizing an opportunity to return to school, Sue began her evening studies. Inspired especially by her daughter’s support and pride, she attends to her studies with both determination and passion. After experiencing all the Stratford Continuing Education Program has to offer she states, “The teachers and staff at Stratford are very supportive, knowledgeable, and are always willing to make time to help you along.”
Now that graduation from the Stratford Continuing Education Program is within her grasp, Sue has been considering her goals for the future. She plans to become a certified dental assistant with further hopes of earning her Associate’s Degree from a community college and eventually enrolling in a four-year university where she plans to enter dental or medical fields.
Sue has proven herself to be an excellent student, whose natural curiosity and dedication to understanding subject matter sets her apart from others. The path that she has set for herself is one paved with success, and we at the Stratford Continuing Education Program would like to wish her the best of luck with her future endeavors.
GABRIELLE MORALES with head counselor Pat Hageman
Gabrielle Morales, was chosen to be one of the speakers at the Stratford Continuing Education High School Graduation Ceremony held in the Stratford High School Auditorium on Thursday, May 8, 2014. She participated as a member of the Credit Diploma Program in which students earn credits toward their high School diploma as required by the Connecticut State Department of Education. “Gabby” as she is known to her family, friends, classmates, and teachers withdrew from day school because she “couldn’t handle regular day school hours” and entered the Evening Credit Diploma Program, held at Stratford High School, as a sophomore in 2009. She was 16 years old and needed 14 credits to complete the requirements for her high school diploma.
Gabby had a long road to travel to complete her requirements for graduation, but she did not give up when life got in the way. She said that coming at night was convenient for her, and she knew she could handle it. She spent five years working to complete the credits necessary to graduate. During most of those five years, she also worked days at a variety of jobs, and for the last year had a job working 40 hours a week.
Gabby admits that some days she felt like giving up, but she said she always had to remind herself that she needed her high school diploma. The last two semesters, she pushed herself hard, not just for herself, but also for her 23-day–old daughter, Kaelynn, so they could have a better future. In her speech, she said that the struggle was worth it. “You can accomplish what you put your mind and effort into.” She expressed thanks to everyone, especially her mother, for having faith in her, never giving up on her and for helping her help herself to grow. With her diploma Gabby will push forward and become a dental assistant with hope that one day she can become a dental hygienist.
Stratford Continuing Education’s GED program will be Theresa O’Malley’s route to a much desired high school diploma.With a great amount of resolve and tenacity, Theresa has been attending GED classes to hone her academic skills.Although she has been with the program for a short time, Theresa has achieved high marks on all GED practice tests provided by our program.Currently, Theresa’s goal is to pass all four parts of the actual GED test which will ultimately broaden her horizons.
Due to illness, Theresa had to withdraw from her daytime high school before achieving enough credits to receive her diploma.While struggling with her illness, she continued her academic enrichment through home schooling.Unfortunately, the home schooling did not provide for an opportunity to earn any type of certificate or diploma.At 18 Theresa completed a medical assistant program and is actively employed in this field.Theresa has shown strength to overcome obstacles and persistence to achieve her goals.
Without her high school diploma, Theresa’s goal of attending college was unattainable.At her sister’s urging and with her continuous support, Theresa decided to return to school.Although she is an excellent student, she realized that there was a need to reacquaint herself with academics and concepts she had never learned.She joined Stratford Continuing Education’s GED program.In her short time with the program, she has proven to be a model student maintaining high standards of achievement.When her name is spoken by the teaching staff, it is done with utmost pride and regard.
Theresa has taken this very important step in her quest to reach the goals she has set for herself.With her intellect, passion for learning, and continuous achievement, she will be successful in the program and obtain her diploma.Theresa plans to study nursing and is setting her sights on a future in the medical field.
Theresa would like to take this opportunity to reach others who may be hesitant to return to school, saying to them “It can be a scary thought to return to school, a time of nervous pondering; however, you must reach out and try.Only then will you see what you can achieve.At the very least, a high school diploma is an accomplishment unto itself, but if you dare, it is just the beginning of the enormous benefits that await you.Education is your opportunity to embrace a chance for a better life.If you didn’t have the mindset or motivation the first time around, it’s never too late.”
The Stratford Continuing Education staff wishes Theresa the very best.With her confidence, passion, and knowledge, she is an achiever with a bright future ahead of her.
Natasha Morales addressed an auditorium filled with family, friends, and guests on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at Stratford High School. Along with twenty-four students from Stratford’s Continuing Education Program, she was there to receive her high school diploma. Natasha officially graduated in December 2013, but chose to come back and walk in the ceremony with her fellow classmates.
Natasha entered the Credit Diploma at Stratford High School with 11.5 credits after she heard about the program through a friend. At seventeen years old, Natasha dropped out of high school to care for her newborn daughter, Adrianna. “Day school became too tough to handle. Evening high school was convenient because my father was willing to help me with my daughter while I attended classes, “she said.
Natasha realized there was a long road ahead, but she was determined to finish her education. Her schedule included taking classes from 4:30 – 9:00 pm, Monday through Thursday. In addition, Natasha took advantage of taking on-line classes offered through our Adult Virtual High School Program. This allowed her to earn credits at a faster pace and graduate earlier than expected.
While attending night school classes, Natasha decided to enroll in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program in Milford. She received hours of clinical training, learning to care for the elderly. This, coupled with working towards earning her high school diploma, offered more opportunities for her in the future.
There were times when Natasha felt like giving up. With the encouragement of her teachers, her confidence level increased. Natasha commented, “the teachers care about you and always pushed me to do my best work. When I felt stressed or unsure, they guided me in the right direction.” Thanks to their support, she achieved honors in the Credit Diploma Program!
Natasha is a motivated graduate with plans for her future. She leaves the Credit Diploma Program with a sense of accomplishment and ambition. She is already attending classes at Housatonic Community College studying to become a labor and delivery nurse. In addition, she is working the evening shift as a CNA in the Jewish Home for the Elderly. With her determination and perseverance, there is no doubt she will succeed in any path she follows.
John M. D’Amato
(with Coordinator of Continuing Education Richard Hageman and Teacher Whitney Owen)
On the evening of May 8, 2014, John D’Amato marched to the sounds of ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, and shortly thereafter, he received his high school diploma from Stratford Continuing Education. This event marked a milestone for John and his family as he celebrated this event approximately 36 years after his decision to drop out of high school at the youthful age of sixteen.
John joined the GED program at Stratford High school in the fall of 2012 with the intention of fulfilling a goal that had been eluding him for many years. As a working family man, he knew the sacrifices and effort he would have to put forward to attain his high school diploma. The idea of completing high school was not only worthwhile, but something that he had to do for himself. With the support and encouragement of his family and the Stratford Continuing Education staff, his time and effort helped him to realize his dream.
During May of 2013, proud, confident, and with renewed interest, John took and passed all five parts of the State GED test, quite an achievement for an individual out of day school for so long. He did not receive his scores in time for the May, 2013 ceremony, so he joined fellow classmates one year later to celebrate his journey. John worked hard to earn his diploma and chose to be part of the celebration of accomplishment in the presence of his family and friends.
John was selected by the Stratford Continuing Education staff to be a graduation speaker. Through all of his struggles with work and school, he always remained a model student and an inspiration and pleasure to have in the classroom. John offered his appreciation to many as he presented his speech: for the support and sacrifice of his family; for the enduring encouragement of his parents; and to the Stratford Continuing Education staff, all who helped him grasp this moment. Most importantly, John wanted to reach others from the podium, either directly, or indirectly: to inspire, to offer encouragement, to nurture hope, to take that same step that he had beginning a new journey enriched by education.
Congratulations to you, John D’Amato, for your success, your wisdom, and your noble efforts to encourage others with your story.
Pedro Ramos is living in Stratford now, far from his home in Camuy, Puerto Rico. He came to the Stratford area in order to follow the love of his life, Rosa. He met Rosa in Quebradillas, a city near Camuy, because she, too, has family there. Soon after they met, Pedro came to Stratford to visit Rosa, and he liked it so much that he decided he wanted to stay permanently.
Pedro owned the Ramos Home Construction Company for more than 28 years in Camuy. During that time, he also went to school at the Reine Institute in Aguadilla in order to become a certified chef. After completing his studies and receiving his diploma, he bought the Mari Mar restaurant in Camuy and served as the head chef for more than two years. During that time, he simultaneously ran both the construction company and the restaurant.
Upon deciding to stay in the area, Pedro bought a house in Stratford in May of 2012. As a result, he sold his construction company and restaurant in Camuy, so that he could live here full-time. Living in Stratford, he knew he needed to learn English, so he enrolled in the Stratford Continuing Education Program which offers state-mandated Adult Education classes in English as a Second Language (ESL). Pedro enrolled in the Beginner level and was very successful—moving quickly through the course. He returned in the Fall of 2013, and is continuing to learn English with great success.
In July of 2012, Pedro bought a catering business from Rosa’s brother. Part of the contract said that he must cater breakfast and lunch at the “Elephant’s Trunk” which is a weekly, large flea market in New Milford, CT from March until December. So, Pedro and Rosa spend Saturdays getting all the food ready for Sunday. They leave Stratford at 4 a.m. on Sundays so they can arrive in New Milford with enough time to get the coffee ready for the vendors.
Accustomed to the entrepreneurial life, in the spring of 2013 Pedro received his home improvement license and started the Ramos Home Improvement Company. He does small home repairs and major re-construction jobs. Pedro has a vast background and knowledge of home construction, as well as masonry, so he already has a large following in and around the Stratford area. All of his new ventures are now in his new language, English, and with Rosa by his side, we are confident that Pedro will continue to accomplish great things!
Congratulations to Pedro Ramos, our ESL Success Story for 2013!
Donzella Kollack Brown earned her High School diploma by successfully completing the requirements of Stratford Continuing Education’s Credit Diploma Program. In this program students earn credits toward graduation requirements by completing required courses and elective courses in a classroom setting. Classes are held at Stratford High School on Monday through Thursday evenings between the hours of 4:30 – 9:00 PM. A maximum of one credit each can also be earned for full-time employment for one year or more, or for performing 100 hours of community service. A limited number of on-line courses are also available in the Credit Diploma Program. Students participating in on-line classes do so in a classroom setting with a teacher-mentor.
Donzella enrolled in the Credit Diploma Program in 2002, twenty-three years after dropping out of high school. When she enrolled, she faced the challenge of earning nearly 95% of the credits required to earn her high school diploma. She worked diligently toward her goal even though she had to take time off from school from 2005 – 2007 and again from 2008 – 2011.
When she enrolled again in 2011, Donzella was conscientious and hard-working, completing the last half of her credits in tow year. She wisely took advantage of all of the options in the program by earning a work credit, a volunteer credit, and enrolling in on-line courses.
Donzella was chosen to be one of the graduation speakers, and in her speech she gratefully acknowledged all of her teachers, counselors, classmates, and office staff for helping her to become a graduate. She was especially thankful for the positive encouragement she and all of her classmates received from Richard Hageman, the Continuing Education, Interim-administrator. As she congratulated her classmates, she thanked family members for supporting her efforts to obtain her high school diploma.
Erika Valentin addressed an auditorium filled with family, friends, and guests on May 9, 2013 at Stratford High School. Along with twenty- two other students from Stratford Continuing Education, Erika was there to receive her high school diploma. Four years ago, the proud graduate could not imagine sharing her personal story with a large audience.
During her senior year at Bunnell High School, Erika became a single mother at the age of seventeen. The demands of school and responsibilities of motherhood quickly took a toll on her. Erika decided to put her education on hold to support her family. That period of her life was a challenging time filled with uncertainty. Erika explained, “I failed on an epic scale. I was a single parent with no income to support my child. I had no idea what was to come of my future.”
When her son turned three years old, she knew completing high school would provide a better future for her family. Enrolling in Credit Diploma Program became the best option to earn her high school diploma. She continued working during the day while taking classes four nights a week in the program at Stratford High School. Erika was a dedicated, motivated student who achieved honors in the program numerous times. She served as a positive role model for her peers, completing her credits in a year and a half. She reminded her classmates to reflect upon their journey, including their successes and failures. “Some failure in life is inevitable,” she added. “I’m here to tell you, don’t let failure set you back.”
Her best friend, Teresa, also a student in the Credit Diploma Program, provided encouragement every step of the way. She also received support from family, friends, and the staff of Stratford Continuing Education. Erika expressed special thanks to her mother who remained committed to her daughter’s education, but more importantly, remained committed to her.
Erika is a high school graduate with a bright future ahead. She proved in spite of adverse circumstances, one can overcome many obstacles. Her plans include working and continuing her education at a local college. With her determination, courage and perseverance, there is no doubt Erika will succeed in the path she follows on her life’s journey.
Oscar Brown, originally from Jamaica moved to the United States in July 2012. In Jamaica, Oscar attended a prominent high school. Although he was full of potential and his aspirations were high, he was faced with challenges that were overwhelming. These challenges prevented him from completing the one course that he needed in order to graduate with his class.
After leaving high school, he quickly realized how very difficult it was to obtain quality employment without a high school diploma. Oscar did gain a position as a library aide. He was regularly reminded that individuals holding higher ranking positions possessed a high school diploma.
Oscar became motivated, focused and determined to change his situation by earning the educational credits that he needed in order to be promoted. His determination paid off and he not only received a promotion, but now he was also eligible to enter college. College was a dream that he had his entire life, and now his dream was about to become a reality.
Life took another turn, however, when Oscar decided to leave Jamaica and move to the United States. Learning that he would need an American high school diploma to enter college, Oscar enrolled in Stratford Continuing Education’s GED® program. After a few months of classes, he took the practice GED® test and did exceptionally well. He was advised to take the official GED® test, did so in December 2012, and passed it on his first attempt.
As a husband, a father figure and a responsible man, it is very important to Oscar to personally convey the right message to his family and friends: to be a helpful mentor, a positive role model, and a strong male figure who will be there to support his family.
With this latest achievement, obtaining a high school diploma from the State of Connecticut, Oscar realizes that countless new opportunities are now open to him. He is able to enroll in college, pursue a career in a field of interest, and to live the life of his dreams. Oscar turned his setbacks into successes by staying focused and making the most of the resources that were readily available to him.
Raul Baez is a prime example of what all students enrolled in Stratford Continuing Education strive to be. Raul is a highly motivated, focused and determined individual who is now reaping the benefits of these admirable qualities. Growing up in Bronx, New York, Raul was one of four children raised in a single parent home by his mother, Gisela. Surrounded by gangs and violence, Raul faced difficult challenges on an everyday basis that eventually led to him leaving the Bronx in the middle of 10th grade and enrolling at Stratford High School. Raul would eventually drop out of school in the 11th grade, unmotivated to complete his education.
With the support of his mother and girlfriend, Raul realized that he would need to go back to school and get his high school diploma in order to find work and pursue a career. Raul came to Stratford Continuing Education to find what the best course of action would be to obtain his goals. After an initial assessment, Raul began GED classes in the Fall of 2011. Throughout the semester Raul displayed a focus and determination toward achieving his goal of obtaining a high school diploma. In addition to the support he was receiving at home, Raul now had the members of the Stratford Continuing Education faculty to instruct, assist and encourage him in reaching his goals. By the end of the semester, Raul had continued to exhibit the motivation, focus and determination to pass the GED Test. Based on his caliber of work, Raul was advised that he was ready to take the GED Test and, in December 2011, he passed the GED Test with his first attempt.
Armed with a high school diploma, Raul has opened many doors of opportunity previously closed to him. He is now attending Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, CT with future aspirations of earning a degree in Elementary Education. In addition to his mother Gisela, girlfriend Tiffany and brother Eric, Raul credits the support and one-on-one attention he received from the Stratford Continuing Education staff in helping him earn his high school diploma. Raul overcame the odds and chose to take advantage of the support available to him. Now he is on a straight path to further success.
Edward O’Connor, originally from New York, moved to Stratford at the age of fourteen. High School was a difficult time for him because he faced numerous problems adjusting to a new school. During his senior year, he made the difficult decision to leave high school. Through the recommendation of a friend, Ed entered the Credit Diploma Program to finish his remaining classes.
Ed was one of the speakers invited to address distinguished guests and graduates in the Stratford High School auditorium this year. He stated, “the importance of this occasion is more than a piece of paper and grand procession. It is a symbol of our class taking the next step towards a better life.” Like many other graduates, he understands the necessity of education in the 21st century.
He told the audience, “the road to get here was far from easy and riddled with distractions of every shape and size.” Ed, a talented musician, even quoted one of his music idols. Elvis Presley once said, “ambition is dream with a V8 engine.” He acknowledged the efforts of his classmates complimenting their hard work and determination along the way.
Ed credits the Continuing Education Program for providing an environment which he could focus on his studies without distraction. He encouraged the graduates to “take the ideals and lessons learned during our time here and apply them to wherever life takes us.” Ed believes values such as respect, proper work etiquette, and common courtesy are useful attributes in both college and workplace settings.
In closing, Ed took a moment to congratulate his fellow classmates. “Everyone here has earned their diploma and I wish them the best in their endeavors as this chapter of our lives ends and a new one begins.” Edward’s new beginning includes college and studying Radiology. We wish him all the best!
David L. Drury
It has been a long road for David L. Drury Jr. to obtain his high school diploma. There were many detours in his 38-year journey to graduation. Quitting school at 16, David worked at a variety of odd jobs to support himself. At 17, he enlisted in the Army, spending six years there.
At 18 years old, while in the army he began a family with his first wife. After his discharge, he needed a job to support his family. So at that time, his path to a high school diploma ended again. Quickly the years passed, and eventually David’s first marriage ended in divorce. Later he met and married his wife, Jayne, and they moved to South Carolina to start a new life. While living in South Carolina, he unsuccessfully attempted to get his GED. Again, David’s family was growing. He and his wife had two children so once again David gave up trying to get his diploma and worked two jobs to support his family.
As the years went by, David’s children questioned him about his reasons for never finishing high school, and he explained the reasons numerous times to his them. The subject of graduation kept coming up in family conversations, and David finally made a decision to go back to school and try again to obtain his high school diploma. He wanted to show his children the importance of a high school diploma. He had learned this lesson the hard way.
David registered in Stratford Continuing Education’s Credit Diploma Program and began where he had left off years ago—in 9th grade. In 2007, he was injured on the job and needed surgery, causing yet another delay in completing his education, but David wasn’t willing to give up his quest for a high school diploma.
In 2008, the economy started to fail, and he knew it was even more important to finish high school. David was laid off from his job in 2009 after thirteen years of employment. He continued attending school, and because he was enrolled in a program to earn his high school diploma, he was able to work for a temporary agency that required him to be working toward graduation.
After six long years of going to school and supporting his family, David has finally become a high school graduate. As one of the graduation speakers on May 10, 2012, David, because of his own experience, told the audience to encourage family, friends, and especially the younger generation to graduate from high school. David knows that a high school diploma is the first step in achieving goals for a successful future.
Arshley Lazarre received her high school diploma during the Stratford Continuing Education ceremony at Stratford High School on Thursday, May 10, 2012. “The only thing that stood in the way of receiving my diploma was my illness,” she explained to the audience. Along with her family, she made the difficult decision to leave school five credits shy of graduating from Bunnell High School.
She traveled to Haiti to receive treatment for her illness. Her health became a priority forcing Arshley to put her education on hold. While other students focused on their high school experience, she fought to regain her health. She remained in Haiti for over a year until she was well enough to return home.
Even during this painful time, Arshley planned to finish her high school diploma. Her parents emphasized the importance of education at an early age, she said. “ I thank them for that because they made me realize I have more options.” They encouraged Arshley to set goals for herself, including going to school and becoming a lawyer.
Apprehensive at first, Arshley enrolled in the Credit Diploma Program within days of her return from Haiti. She was familiar with some of the students, but initially felt out of place. A former Bunnell student, her classmates now included Stratford High students as well. In time, she learned to be comfortable here.
Arshley believes everyone deserves a chance to pursue their education. She describes her experience in the Credit Diploma program as, “great and has helped her achieve her goals.” Her faith in God, family support and best friend encouraged her to finish what she started. She is also grateful to the administration and counselors who guided her on this journey. In particular, she recognized the efforts of her English teacher, Miss Attina, who truly understood the struggles she faced.
Arshley is a proud graduate with a bright future ahead. She proved in spite of adverse circumstances, one can overcome any obstacles. Her plans include working and continuing her education at a local college. With her determination, courage and perseverance there is no doubt Arshley will succeed in any path she follows.
Shamecca Panton received her High School Diploma on May 12, 2011 in the nearly-full Stratford High School auditorium. A member of Stratford Continuing Education’s Credit Diploma Program’s Class of 2011, she was one of two students chosen to address the graduating class.
Shamecca came to Stratford a few years ago from Port Chester, New York and attended Stratford High School, but dropped out in eleventh grade. Realizing the importance of continuing her education, she enrolled in the Credit Diploma Program, one part of Stratford’s Continuing Education programs. Students enrolled in this program earn credits by taking courses required by the state of Connecticut for graduation, and upon completing the program receive a high school diploma from the Stratford Board of Education.
Determined to earn her diploma, Shamecca became dedicated and focused on achieving her goal. She calls her journey “a tough, long run.” She told the graduation audience that so many times she wanted to quit and that there were days she almost did. Actually, she became a very conscientious student with excellent attendance and outstanding grades. All this was accomplished while working at a full-time job in a wholesale warehouse in Norwalk.
She did it for her mother, she said, who provided her with a good home. After leaving high school, she learned the value of that diploma. She thanked the administration for providing the program, the counselors for guiding her when she felt lost, and her teachers, for challenging and helping her, and for not letting her fail. She spoke of her teachers as being understanding, patient, and friendly; they were there when she needed them. She is grateful to her family and friends and to her classmates who “were always there for each other.”
Shamecca is a graduate with great potential. She is ambitious and self-directed. She has a variety of interests including psychology, theater, dance, writing, and music. She intends to enroll in college to continue her education. Shamecca learned that she can be successful in an academic setting. She is a highly proficient student who will continue to work energetically toward the new goals that she sets for herself.
Big dreams are what Lorena Gonzalez-Veliz likes to talk about. Lorena has used her commitment to education, hard work, and pride in citizenship to achieve her dreams. Lorena grew up in Guatemala where she graduated from high school. College was out of the question for Lorena because of the high tuition fees. Political instability in Guatemala convinced Lorena and her husband that they had to make a change. Lorena’s dream was to come to the United States.
Lorena and her husband eventually received political asylum and moved to New York. This alone was a huge accomplishment, but Lorena says that immigrants don’t have just one dream. The first dream is to get to the United States but then more dreams follow. Lorena moved to Stratford because her husband found a job as a handyman. Lorena had greater difficulty finding employment. Many of the jobs she applied for would not accept her Guatemalan High School Diploma. Lorena realized that her new dream was to earn her GED High School Diploma. She learned about the Stratford Continuing Education Program by reading the Stratford Community Calendar. Lorena registered in the GED Preparation and American Citizenship programs. Lorena says that the American Citizenship classes were great.
The teacher kept her focused and helped her understand the material. Lorena passed the American Citizenship exam on her first attempt. She was relieved and is proud to be an American citizen. Lorena thinks it is important to be a good citizen, “Respect the country, loyalty to the country; these are the main things for me”.
Lorena accomplished the dream of becoming an American citizen while working, attending GED classes, and taking care of her family. Lorena has a profound sense of pride in her accomplishments, now she continues on with her next “big dream”.
Jennifer Greenberg received her high school diploma during the Stratford Continuing Education’s 2011 Graduation Ceremony held on May 12, 2011 in the Stratford High School Auditorium. “Better late than never”, she said as she addressed the audience as one of the two Credit Diploma students chosen as graduation speakers. Jennifer, a Stratford resident her entire life, looks back at her experience during day school as different from the other students.
She didn’t participate in extra curricular activities, but felt that she simply coasted through the years without putting much effort into her school work. By senior year when it became clear that she wasn’t going to graduate with her class partly because of excessive absences, she withdrew. Feeling low, as if at the end of the road, Jennifer told the audience that for another year, she continued down this destructive path to nowhere.
Working in a restaurant with employees younger than herself starting college opened her eyes to the realization that she was capable of more than this. Jennifer decided to make a commitment to herself that she was determined to keep and enrolled in the Credit Diploma Program. She was surprised to see her favorite day school teacher, Miss Attina, teaching English in the program. One of the school counselors, Mrs. Seperack, and Miss Attina served as her role models, giving her the will to find the confidence she needed not to just “get by” but to do her best.
Jennifer began to believe in herself, creating goals—just simple ones like staying organized, keeping up with homework, and attending class regularly. Within a year, she went from being a drop out to graduating with first honors – straight A’s. Something she never imagined she could achieve “in a million years”.
Jennifer is a compassionate, caring young woman with wonderful potential for success as she continues her education. She gratefully acknowledges the support of the administration, all of her teachers, and fellow classmates. She spoke of the unconditional support that she received from her family as she worked to achieve the goal that would open doors to a brighter future filled with opportunities not available without a high school diploma. Jennifer plans to attend college to pursue a career in the medical field. Her compassion for others makes her an excellent candidate for this area of study.
Remy Exantus is an excellent example of persistence and life long learning. Remy was born in Gonaives Haiti. His parents had no formal education but were successful farmers. Remy graduated high school in Haiti, followed by a technical school in Port-au-Prince. In 1978 one of Remy’s five brothers made the voyage to the United States Remy did not consider leaving Haiti region until 1991. The weak Haitian economy convinced him that he had more opportunities for success in the United States-region.
When Remy arrived in the U.S he spoke no English. Remy began language classes in the Stamford Continuing Education Program. Remy worked in a factory until he received his CDL license. Remy enjoyed success at work, but felt he could do more. Remy decided that he wanted to earn a GED High School Diploma.
A friend recommended that Remy investigate the Stratford Continuing Education Program. In 2009 Remy registered for ABE/GED classes. Since Remy entered the Stratford Continuing Education Program he has been a consistently diligent worker.
Remy has already passed the Social Studies and Math sections of the GED. We look forward to Remy completing the remaining GED tests and attaining his goals. Remy has made a commitment to education that is truly commendable. He is an excellent model for his three children who are in the Stratford Public School System. Remy proves that anyone can achieve their educational goals with persistence and a dedication to life long learning.
Superintendent Irene Cornish congratulating Ashley Gonzalez for earning her Diploma from the Continuing Education Credit Diploma Program.
Ashley understood the value of an education at a young age and enjoyed the pleasure that knowledge, talent, and skill bring to an individual. She enjoyed drawing ever since she was a young child. In middle school, Ashley learned that drawing was more than just something to do for fun. Her art classes in middle school lit a spark inside her that brought out both a talent and a very strong desire to learn more. This interest in art helped her through many difficult times in her young life when completing her high school education became more and more of a goal almost out of her reach.
It wasn’t Ashley’s ability as a student that moved the goal farther out of her reach as a young beginning high school student. It was her compassion and unselfish desire to help her family that postponed her own goals. She tried to do both, attend school and help out at home, but she began to miss more and more school. She enrolled in ALPHA, an alternative high school program with a shortened day, but still felt the need to help during the day. Her principal suggested on Stratford’s Credit Diploma Program. These classes meet at night, and Ashley found the way to achieve both her goals: help at home and graduate from high school. After spending more than two years in it’s Credit Diploma Program, she will receive her diploma.
During the years since middle school, Ashley has collected a portfolio of her art work. Her interest is in illustration and graphic design. She also has a strong interest in Early Childhood education. She loves working with children, and says they make her smile. She plans to pursue study in both of these areas in college. Ashley is a young woman wise beyond her years. She found a hobby in art that allowed her to relax when the pressures of life bore down on her. She wants to follow a career in which children make her smile, and she had the perseverance to graduate from high school in the face of many obstacles.
Superintendent Irene Cornish congratulating Madeline Diaz for earning her Diploma from the Continuing Education Credit Diploma Program.
Lifetime learning is a goal that educational leaders try to instill in students at an early age. Madeline Diaz is an excellent example of the value of lifetime learning. She also exemplifies the fact that no matter how long the interruptions are, or how important the reasons are for interrupting an education, a motivated person can pick up, start over, and finish a goal once interrupted.
Even though she left school at sixteen, for sometime Madeline believed that she did not need a high school diploma. She always worked even without the diploma, in a grocery store and in a factory. Through the YWCA, she took a typing course at Housatonic Community College and obtained a job as a receptionist where she worked for seven years. Since 1994, she has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant, having obtained her training at Bullard HavensTechnical School. She has always liked taking care of and helping others.
Her experiences as a C.N.A. have led to her wanting to continue her education to pursue a career in occupational therapy. This goal necessitated a high school diploma, and so she enrolled in the Credit Diploma Program at Stratford Continuing Education, where she received her diploma on May 13, 2010. Madeline intends to enroll in HousatonicCommunity College to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Therapy.
"Now, it's my turn!"; best describes the situation in which Claudia Gonzalez found herself.
Claudia was 17 years old when she left school to have her first son, Vernon. Both, she and her mother were disappointed: “My mother really wanted to see me graduate.”
Perseverance prevailed as Claudia worked at two jobs in order to support her family and help pay for the baby sitter after the arrival of her second child.
Claudia’s goal of earning her High School diploma had to be postponed for quite a while as her sons were growing up. She explained, “I wanted to be there for my sons so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did.”
When Vernonwas about to graduate from Bunnell High School and enroll at Housatonic Community College, he encouraged his mother to return to school and further her education.
Claudia enrolled in Stratford’s GED Preparation Program to achieve her dream of earning a High School Diploma twenty years after leaving school. Success followed: Claudia passed her GED test the very first time around! With her new-found success, Claudia has begun the process toward becoming a nurse.
“If the idea has always been there to get a diploma, despite the struggle, there is no excuse to avoid registering for a program such as Stratford Continuing Education. They care and they will help you,” advises Claudia.
Superintendent Irene Cornish congratulating Esteban Ortiz for earning his Diploma by passing the State of Connecticut GED test.
The roads we choose during our journeys of life can lead us to many new and unanticipated directions. Esteban Ortiz discovered this as he chose to leave high school in another municipality in his sophomore year because he felt he didn’t fit into the routine and because the work just wasn’t challenging.
His father was disappointed and held Esteban accountable for finding a job. For years, Esteban held odd jobs ranging from Labor Force to Walgreen’s to construction to carpet cleaning. He wasn’t happy with the lack of direction but he was earning a living and meeting his father’s expectations.
At 21, Esteban married. His wife who encouraged him to find more reliable and better-paying work to support their growing family. Esteban settled into working for a printing company and said his pay tripled over the years.
The road took an unexpected turn: computerization transformed the printing industry, eliminating many jobs. As Esteban re-entered the job market as the economy soured, he found he was limited with no high school diploma.
With the encouragement and support of his family, Esteban enrolled in Stratford’s GED preparation program. He found his year in classes was very helpful, “especially in math.” His daughter also helped him with his math homework.
Esteban recalled: “The day I received my diploma in the mail, my heart stopped beating. I looked at the photo of my Dad on the wall and shouted, ‘Dad, I did it!’ My achievement is bigger than anything in the world. It was so exciting to read my name on the diploma.”
Advice from Esteban: “Regardless of how frustrated or whatever is holding you back, go to school and stick it out. Don’t give up.”
Jennifer Matteo receiving her Certificate of Achievement award from Board of Education Member Jean Collier.
Jennifer Matteo is a very bright young woman who realizes the need for a high school diploma. Without it there are too many roadblocks, too many obstacles to achieving goals she has set for herself. Some young people in the traditional high school just don't find that the experience lives up to that old expression "the best years of your life".
Jen was one of those students who found the traditional high school intolerable, and she withdrew. After a year out of school working full-time and volunteering in a senior center, the value of a high school diploma became something she understood fully. Without a high school diploma, her choices in life would be severely limited. She knew she had to graduate from high school, but she also knew that traditional day school was not for her. After moving to Stratford, at the suggestion of a guidance counselor, Jen inquired about the Stratford Continuing Education Credit Diploma Program and was soon enrolled.
Jen spent three years in the Credit Diploma Program and found the shorter three-hour, four-day week to her liking.; She was also able to take on-line classes allowing her to earn credits at her own speed. This program was very comfortable for her. She had found traditional education moving too slowly for her. In addition, Jen works two jobs during the day, and says she probably would not have finished high school if day school was her only option. She plans to attend Housatonic Community College in the fall to continue her education.
A citizen of Yemen, Samira Ghaleb met her future husband, Ahmed Alwan in her native country. Being a United States citizen, he brought his new wife to America.
It was an awesome experience for Samira, adjusting to a new language and a new culture. Samira and Ahmed are proud of their four children who attend Stratford schools.
Samira observed there is more advanced technology in American classrooms and that teachers are more helpful here. She has improved her mastery of the English language by reading books, watching television, and speaking with her family.
Some years ago, Samira encouraged her husband to work toward acquiring his Associate of Science degree. Now, Ahmed is reciprocating by encouraging Samira, who attended school in Yemen for eight years, to work toward improving her basic skills in English and Mathematics in Stratford’s Continuing Education Program.
With the support of her husband and children, Samira enrolled in the Adult Basic Skills program in 2006. She has made steady progress in developing her skills and dreams of achieving her GED High School Diploma soon. Her dreams continue with eventually attending college to become an architect.
The message of Samira’s story: with dedication and perseverance in furthering your education, dreams CAN be realized.
Superintendent Irene Cornish congratulating Kathryn Hanrahan for earning her diploma from the Continuing Education Credit Diploma Program.
Since completing twelfth grade at Stratford Continuing Education Credit Diploma Program in December 2009, Kathryn Hanrahan has attended Housatonic Community College as a part time student for the spring semester.
She has recently declared her major as criminal justice as well as pairing up with a program in liberal arts and science. Kathryn is registered for both summer and fall semesters, switching her status to full time. After completion of all degree requirements, she plans to transfer to the University of New Haven to enroll in their forensics program with a goal of joining the FBI in the future. While attending Housatonic Community College,
Kathryn has also completed an accelerated Emergency Medical Technician – Basic course this past March. She plans to take the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician exam at the end of June. Once certified, Kathryn would like a position with Stratford EMS as a part-time volunteer. She is also currently looking into a summer internship with the Stratford Police Department. Kathryn would like to thank her friends and mentors Kelly Donnelly, Erik Veroba, Stratford Police Officer Robert Rosenbaum, and Barbara Pitcher, Coordinator of Continuing Education. “Without their help and advice, I don’t believe I would have made it this far.”
Superintendent Irene Cornish awarding Nancy Rios with her Stratford Evening High School Diploma
Nancy Rios, a single mother of three children, dropped out of high school at 17. Years of a very difficult personal life followed. The loss of her job and the impossibility of finding another one convinced her that she needed her high school diploma.
Eighteen years after dropping out of school, Nancy enrolled in Stratford Continuing Education's Credit Diploma Program and successfully completed the requirements for graduation. During her final year of the program, she suffered with a serious illness, the loss of her job, and her home.
Nancy credits the support of her extended family, her desire for a better life for herself and her family, and the support of the administration, faculty, and staff for being able to achieve her goal. Setting the example for her children that a high school diploma is necessary and teaching them to be self-sufficient are very important to Nancy.
She wants young people to understand that when parents push them to get an education and graduate, they are doing it out of love and because they don't want their children to have to struggle the way she did. Stratford Continuing Education Administration and staff with Nancy continued success.
Superintendent Irene Cornish awarding Migdalia Cruz with her Stratford Evening High School Diploma
There can be many obstacles in our paths throughout our life journeys. As a 17 year old, Migdalia Cruz has experienced and surmounted many of those obstacles in recent years.
In less than a three year period, Migdalia attended three different high schools. These transitions certainly challenged her; but her greatest challenge was coping with a long-term illness which prevented her from attending Stratford High School regularly. Options were discussed during a meeting with Migdalia, her mother, a counselor and school administrator.
After researching her choices, Migdalia chose to register in the GED Preparation Program at Stratford Continuing Education. She had mixed feelings: she was excited about beginning but also felt some trepidation about what her first class would be like.
That trepidation faded quickly as she found smaller classes taught by supportive and reassuring teachers. She said, “They helped me fill in the gaps, spending extra time to help me. After a while, they told me they knew I would pass the GED test.”
Less than a year after she entered the program, Migdalia proudly passed the GED test on her first attempt. Her future plan is to enroll in an interior design program at Housatonic Community College
For those who do not yet have a high school diploma, Migdalia advises, “If you have a choice, enroll into the GED program. It’s an environment that supports your efforts. The teachers are there for you 100%. You just can’t give up.”
Superintendent Irene Cornish awarding Greg Palyo with her Stratford Evening High School Diploma
Is it ever too late to resume your formal education? Greg Palyo dropped out
of high school fourteen years ago in order to be a full-time caretaker for his ill grandmother. Greg and his father found it was too expensive to place her in a convalescent home; so, Greg generously sacrificed his schooling.
Several years later, Greg began working as a full-time carpenter with his father. Periodically, Greg thought about returning to school, realizing he wanted something more out of life. In a sense, he did return to school; but it was in the capacity of repairing the doors and locks of Stratford's school buildings.
It took the support and encouragement of Greg's girlfriend (who was already attending college part-time) to help him confront his reluctance. He registered for Stratford's GED preparation classes in September of 2008.
Attending the first couple of classes, Greg felt nervous and embarrassed. He asked himself, "What did I get myself into?" After a while, he really 'got into it," asking himself, "Why didn't I go back sooner?"
As Greg's confidence grew, he discovered he actually enjoyed his classes. He found his teachers to be helpful and supportive, presenting a balance between whole group and individualized instruction.
In January of 2009, just a half year later, Greg took the plunge and passed all five GED tests the first time. Savoring his achievement, Greg is now considering enrolling in college soon.
To those who may be apprehensive about returning to school. Greg offers this adives: "Take that first step. You can handle anything you want if you put your mind to it. If you don't do it soon, you may look back and regret the additional time you lost."
Superintendent Irene Cornish awarding Emily Cortes with her Stratford Evening High School Diploma
Emily Cortes came to Stratford Evening High School three years ago for what she calls a second opportunity to earn her high school diploma. Looking back, she believes she was immature when she started high school the first time, interested more in having fun rather than preparing for the future. Today she knows that her diploma is the beginning of a better future for herself and her family. In an evening high school accounting class, Emily began to see the possibility of a career for herself. She realized it was not too late for her, and began giving 100% effort in every class she attended.
Emily sees graduation as a beginning, not an ending, toward reaching her goal of becoming an entrepreneur. She plans to open and manage her own restaurant. For Emily, graduation is a culmination of overcoming many obstacles to continue to work toward achieving her goals. She plans to attend Housatonic Community College.
John Killian, 2009 GED Teacher of the Year, receiving his Crystal Apple Teacher of the Year award from
Barbara Pitcher from the Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education (CAACE).
John Killian has been teaching in adult education for the past 7 years. During his tenure at Stratford Continuing Education, John has not only exemplified characteristics of a master teacher, he has displayed talents innate of an instructional leader.
From the onset, he became an active participant of adult education. He showed initiative and drive through his desire to personally assess the academic needs of his students as reflected in their pretests. Understanding the need for assessment as the driving force of instruction, he tailors his courses accordingly. He uses collaborative learning successfully in his classes. He celebrates his students’ achievements every step along the way. This past spring, we had one student who was almost ready to pass the GED Test. John volunteered his time several hours a week for the months of June and July to help her with the math. This student finally did pass the GED Test in August. John has now begun to augment his lessons helping his students to use the distance learning as another avenue for instruction as well as motivation.
Mr. Killian endeavors to address the curricular needs of his students in a manner that is respectful and non-threatening; always keeping his students dignity in mind. John is a very warm and caring gentleman who calls students or sends postcards to check on them when they are absent. John enjoys mentoring new teachers and collaborates and shares his ideas with his other colleagues. Barbara Pitcher, Coordinator of Stratford Continuing Education believes John Killian represents the BEST of the BEST in adult education. The Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education is pleased to congratulate John and wish him continued success.
Margaret Blanda, 2008 ESOL Teacher of the Year, receiving her award from
Barbara Pitcher from the Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education (CAACE).
Margaret Blanda has been teaching in adult education for the past 22 years. During her tenure at Stratford Continuing Education, Margaret has exemplified characteristics of a master teacher.
From the onset, she became an active participant of adult education. Understanding the need for assessment as the driving force of instruction, she tailors her courses accordingly. She uses collaborative learning successfully in her ESOL classes. She celebrates her students’ achievements every step along the way.
Mrs. Blanda endeavors to address the curricular needs of her students in a manner that is respectful and non-threatening; always keeping her students’ dignity in mind. Margaret is a very warm and caring person who has a wonderful rapport with her students.
Margaret has presented several workshops in her field for CAACE and other individual adult education programs. She also continues to volunteer her time as a CEU facilitator each year at the CAACE Conference. Barbara Pitcher and the Stratford Continuing Education staff are very proud of Mrs. Blanda’s recognition and wish her continued success.