Norwich Regional Adult Education program celebrates 22 new graduates
The Norwich Regional Adult Education program is state-mandated and works across 12 school districts in southeastern Connecticut. The program is free and offers students the chance to finish high school credits, achieve their GED and pursue additional education that gears them towards specific career paths tailored to their interests and strong suits.
The students are given the opportunity to attend morning, evening, or night classes to have flexibility in managing their responsibilities while attending school. During the pandemic, this format remained but, like many other schools, online schooling was an option as well.
What is unique about the program is its English as a Second Language, Certified Nursing Assistant, and Manufacturing Technician Training programs which help non-English learners and students looking for specialized training.
These programs’ students graduated June 13 and shared their stories at the 50th Annual Graduation and Recognition Ceremony at Kelly Steam Magnet Middle School.
Angel Riveria is 19 and started high school at East Lyme. She described having struggles with getting one-on-one help from teachers in the large classroom and said she was made to feel like her worth was the grade in her class. She moved from East Lyme High School to Fitch High School, then Seymour High School, and eventually back to East Lyme before leaving school altogether.
Riveria eventually got into adult education. Despite a rocky start, her hard work and connections with her teachers helped her to do well in classes. She said she appreciated the more personal connections with teachers and felt valued as a student.
She is now taking medical classes and wants to help kids by practicing in pediatrics.
Like Riveria, Zachary Carey and Edgar Alvarado are younger graduates who have now finished their high school education and are seeking additional education to find career paths. Both Carey and Alvarado left traditional high school after struggling with their education during the COVID pandemic.
Carey said, “As a kinesthetic learner, online schooling was especially difficult.”
Carey found adult education after his mom and he moved from Washington state to Norwich, where she began working in Griswold schools. He, like Alvarado, took advantage of the resources offered by the program and after graduating will be attending Three Rivers Community College.
Carey is pursuing a 10-week welding program and plans to work at Electric Boat in the near future.
Cecily Martinez dropped out of high school when she was 14 years old. It took 16 years to stop “making a million reasons why not to go back to school,” and once she did she felt far more empowered in her personal worth. She said her husband had known she “wanted to go back to school for a while” and signed her up when she was 9 months pregnant with her son.
Cecily was not alone in this challenge as several of the graduates were raising or even having children during the process of achieving their education credentials.
Cecily said, “I took my first test when he was 4 weeks old and passed all my tests by the time he was 8 weeks old.”
Cecily will continue to work full-time in the fall while being a full-time student at Three Rivers to pursue a degree in business marketing. She plans to create her own primary care clinic in Connecticut within the next two years and hopes to be the practicing manager of the clinic.
Mouhamed Ngom moved from Senegal to Norwich in 2018. He came to join his father and looked to begin high school with the intention of going to college. Mouhamed struggled with health issues and the COVID pandemic while attending adult education, but said, “We made it with the help of the teachers and the staff. They made it possible for us to go to college.”
Mouhamed, like many of the others, will attend Three Rivers to pursue a degree now that their high school education is complete. In the fall, he will pursue a business administration degree to work at a “corporate business,” before starting his own business through the experience he gains.
Adult education is a strong resource that Jody Lefkowitz, the director of Norwich Regional Adult Education, and the rest of the staff encourage people to take. Norwich Board of Education Chairperson Robert Aldi described the graduates’ diplomas and GEDs as, “Your insurance policy with the premium paid in full by your hard work ... these past years.”
Aldi further explained that those willing to pursue an education should be proud and make good use of their education and should encourage others to do so as well.