20 June, 2017
Amanda Salers remembers the day vividly – the day she found out she would not graduate from high school because she didn’t pass the mandatory Alabama High School Graduation Exam.
“I found out my senior year at Sardis High School that I would be receiving a certificate of attendance but I would not be getting my diploma,” she said. “I was devastated.”
At 32 years old, Salers has finally earned her diploma after participating in the new non-traditional High School Diploma Option program at Gadsden State Community College. She will be a speaker at the Adult Education Services Graduation at 7 p.m. June 29 at Gadsden State’s Wallace Hall Fine Arts Center.
“I’m so excited that I’ve accomplished something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” she said.
Salers is one of over 500 Alabamians taking advantage of the new HSDO program, which was developed through a partnership between the Alabama Community College System and the Alabama State Department of Education. The program is for those who dropped out of high school without earning the required number of credits or failed portions of the now-retired graduation exam.
“The new program provides students an alternative to the GED test as the high school equivalency,” said Dr. Karen Blythe Smith, director of Adult Education Services at Gadsden State. “Because of the importance of the high school diploma credential in the workforce, this program creates another avenue that students can utilize to meet that goal.”
In 2004, Salers failed the social studies and science portions of the graduation exam. According to the Center on Education Policy, 19 percent of Alabama students failed the science portion and 24 percent failed the social studies portion that year.
“Even though I was a good student who earned a scholarship to a community college, I could not receive my diploma because I didn’t pass those two portions of the exam,” Salers said. “I was so upset.”
In 2005, she took the GED test but failed the math portion by one point.
“I couldn’t catch a break,” she said.
Salers soon got married and took a break from education to raise her two children, Mahalah, now 8, and Jacob, 6. Then, last year, she decided to go after her goal of being a high school graduate.
“There are not many jobs available to people who don’t have a diploma,” she said. She attempted to take the graduation exam again but again didn’t pass the social studies portion.
“I was so discouraged,” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was still three credits short of earning my diploma.”
The principal at the elementary school attended by Salers’ daughter was at a meeting where Smith talked about the HSDO program.
“She knew about my issues so she told me all about it and I called Gadsden State the very next day,” Salers said.
The first step in participating in the HSDO program is to complete a transcript request. Smith reviewed her transcripts and determined a “go-forward” plan for Salers.
“I’ve had many opportunities but the HSDO program at Gadsden State is the best opportunity I’ve been given,” she said. “The faculty and staff are great to me. They helped me get stronger where I was weak. I appreciate them so much.”
In April, Salers took several practice tests before taking the WorkKeys Test, one of several options considered for successful completion of the HSDO program.
“The option pursued is determined on an individual basis,” Smith said. “Scores on the GED, ACT WorkKeys and Test for Adult Basic Education as well as prior work experience are considered.”
Salers completed all requirements for the diploma and will be awarded her diploma at the June 29 ceremony. Her high school transcript will be updated to reflect the credential. Now, she’s focused on continuing her education to work with preschool- and elementary-age children.
“I now know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to,” she said.
As a youth leader at Spirit Led Church of God in Guntersville and a substitute teacher at Whitesboro Elementary School, she has no doubt that she wants to mold the minds of small children.
“The Lord knows working with children is my path, and He has started opening doors for me,” she said.
Salers has already applied for financial aid to attend Gadsden State in the fall. She plans to get certified in CPR and first aid and possibly work towards a certification in early childhood development.
“After coming to Gadsden State, I know there’s no other place for me,” she said. “I succeed at Gadsden State. Before, I was very discouraged. Now, I have a new chapter. I can now tell people to never give up on your dreams. Dreams do come true.”
Free GED classes and the HSDO program are available in Etowah, Calhoun, Cherokee and Cleburne counties through Gadsden State Community College. For more information, call 256-835-5462 or visit www.gadsdenstate.edu.