OGLESBY — Two student speakers shared their GED journeys during the 33rd General Educational Development graduation ceremony at Illinois Valley Community College May 18.
Natividad Leon Telez of Ottawa spoke of her personal struggles before taking a GED class. Telez was born in Mexico and moved to New York when she was 15 years old. She said that her father abused her mother, and when Telez married, her husband abused her. She found her way out of the abusive relationship with the help of many people. Her brother and cousin helped her move to Ottawa where she looked for a job to support her children.
She had no driver’s license, was recovering from a broken leg that left her bedridden for six months, had limited English language skills, and had no work experience because she had been a housewife for 15 years. She also did not have a high school education.
“Then, I decided to change my life and started taking GED and English classes at the IVCC Ottawa Center, and I learned so much,” Telez said. “The Ottawa Center staff helped me overcome my fears and take control of my life.”
Telez took the four GED tests in the fall of 2013. Her hardest subjects were math and writing, and she had to re-take them to finally pass the GED test.
“I was so proud of myself for passing my GED, learning English, finding a job and moving on to further my education in nursing. I am also getting my certification in interpreting to help those in need. My life has changed in the last two years, and a new Natividad has been born,” Telez told the audience of more than 300 people. She thanked all those who had helped her on her journey.
“IVCC staff and the adult education program have changed my life, and I am going to take advantage of everything life has to offer to make myself and my kids proud. Sometimes, we think we are at the end of our lives because we are going through difficult things in life. What I thought of as being the end of my dreams was really the beginning,” Telez said.
Elijah Kleinau of Spring Valley also spoke during the graduation ceremony. He had the honor of speaking to the other 30 graduates because he won this year’s IVCC Adult Education Essay Contest.
“When I began the GED, I thought it was going to be a long and grueling process, but it was a chance for me to further my studies and develop my general education of math, science, language and history,” Kleinau said.
He prepared for the GED test by participating in i-Pathways, an online program offered through IVCC’s Adult Education Department. After he completed all 101 lessons online with the guidance of GED instructor Chris Warren, Kleinau took the GED test in each of the subject areas. He passed three of the four tests on the first try, but he had to take the math test a second time.
“With fingers crossed and a whole lot of studying, I passed the math portion with one of my highest scores. This just proves that with enough determination and studying, one can overcome any obstacle in their way,” Kleinau said.
Now that he has a GED certificate, Kleinau plans to attend a Christian college to study performing arts. In addition to being asked to read his essay during the ceremony, Kleinau received a $100 gift card to the IVCC Bookstore and his name engraved on a plaque that is displayed in the Adult Education Department.
In addition to the two student speakers, Sue Isermann, the interim vice president for Learning and Student Development, presented IVCC Foundation scholarship certificates to Rachel Bastian of Tiskilwa, Bethany Pond of Ottawa, and Aaron Reihl of Streator. Seven others received the scholarship but were unable to attend the ceremony.
Assistant Superintendent of La Salle County Regional Office of Education Christina Dougherty, IVCC President Jerry Corcoran, IVCC Board of Trustees chair Melissa Olivero and student trustee Amy Rogowski awarded certificates to the 31 participants who represented the 164 people who passed the GED exam within the past year, all of whom were invited to the ceremony. Other participants in the ceremony included Adult Education director Sara Escatel, ESL instructor Frank Borkowsky and I-READ program manager Angela Dunlap.
For information on the GED program, call Escatel at 815-224-0355 or visit www.ivcc.edu/adulted.