By Carrie Click
DILLON – Two decades ago, Ana Reyes came to the United States. She didn’t speak English and she didn’t have a high school diploma.
Today, she is an active member of the Summit County community. She’s raised five children, learned English, earned her high school equivalency certification, is taking classes toward a Bachelor of Arts in education and holds down several jobs.
One of Reyes’ jobs is as an assistant instructor at Colorado Mountain College Dillon, helping students to bridge the gap between Spanish and English in courses that prepare them for HSE testing.
High school equivalency, or HSE, is similar to the more familiar GED, or general equivalency diploma. Both require different tests that measure a student’s mastery of high school curriculum. Passing these tests help community members who haven’t graduated from high school earn their credentials, which often leads to better paying jobs and improved opportunities.
Helping people prepare
Colorado Mountain College, with its 11 campuses and learning locations throughout much of the state’s mountain region, offers non-credit classes, certificates, and associate and bachelor’s degrees in over a hundred academic areas. What you may not know is that CMC also helps people prepare for these high school equivalency tests.
Faculty and tutors work directly with students to review content, take quizzes and strengthen students’ skills in reading, writing and math.
During the past year, over 30 students have studied for their high school equivalency tests through CMC Breckenridge and Dillon. A full cohort of students are currently taking semester-long courses to prepare for HSE and GED testing. In January, CMC’s spring semester will offer a new series of preparatory courses.
The Summit County business and philanthropic communities have enthusiastically supported these efforts. The Summit Foundation, the Colorado Grand and most recently the Rotary Club of Summit County are among the organizations that have recognized the need to provide funds for these educational efforts.
A transition to new heights
Among other areas of responsibility, CMC’s School of Transitional Education administers the college’s HSE and GED program, which provides instruction from assistants such as Reyes and from credentialed faculty. The program offers a rigorous academic curriculum and career development that ultimately leads to graduates who are well prepared to enter the workforce.
“Our high school equivalency program supports students with three options to earn their high school equivalency diplomas,” said Dr. Yvette Myrick, the dean of the college’s School of Transitional Education. “At our testing centers students can take the GED exam, or two other high school equivalency exams: the HiSET or the Test Assessing Secondary Completion.”
Under direction from Myrick, the college’s program also helps students transition from ESL and HSE classes to enter postsecondary education to earn a degree or career and technical certificate. The college offers classes with a focus on career pathways, in areas such as food service and teacher education.
“Also, the college now accepts results that students receive from the GED College Ready and GED College Ready + Credit programs,” she said. “If a student receives a high score on certain subjects for the GED, they can enroll in college-level courses. They can also receive credit for college-level courses based on their GED scores. These courses are offered at several CMC locations from Leadville to Basalt.”
According to Myrick, in the past few years, students who started their educational journey in ESL or HSE classes at CMC have transitioned to postsecondary education and training, and to career and technical programs, in significant numbers. Over 5,000 ESL and HSE students have enrolled in postsecondary education and training courses or CTE programs at the college.
“The School of Transitional Education, through a variety of innovative educational programs, is continually striving to help students transition to reaching new heights by achieving their educational and career goals,” she said.