By Jennie Oemig
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the first in a four-part series for the Beverly Citizen’s annual Gifts of Hope campaign.
Sofia* is originally from Guatemala. She has two kids and was working a full-time job when she found Beverly Bootstraps and started taking English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.
Shortly thereafter, Sofia decided it would be worth her while to start working on getting her High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) certificate.
“I was told taking the HiSET would be really hard and I was afraid to do it,” said Sofia.
However, Alessia DaCruz, education supervisor at Beverly Bootstraps, encouraged Sofia to give it a try, informing her that if it ended up being too hard, she could simply move back to just taking the ESOL classes.
The HiSET program (formerly called GED program) at Beverly Bootstraps provides high school-level instruction in language arts, reading, social studies, science and mathematics aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
After starting the HiSET program, Sofia attended night classes after working all day at her job. Finding it overwhelming and exhausting tending to her children, taking classes and working full time, Sofia said she needed to take a break.
“I quit [taking classes] for a while,” she said, explaining she eventually switched jobs and started only working part time in the afternoons. “And then came back after moving to Beverly.”
And the second time was the charm for Sofia, as she was able to buckle down and focus on the coursework. In June, Sofia was one of 18 individuals to graduate from the Bootstraps HiSET program.
“That was one of the most exciting days of my life,” she said.
Participants in Beverly Bootstraps’ HiSET program typically range in age from 17 to their 60s, and enrollment fluctuates depending on the time of year.
“We can have up to 25 people in the program at any one time,” said Julia Andrews, adult education supervisor for Beverly Bootstraps. “Enrollment increases in the fall when school is on people’s minds, and then again in January when people make New Year’s resolutions.”
But none of it would be possible without the dedication of over 20 tutors and other staff members at Beverly Bootstraps.
“My department couldn’t run without the staff and our amazing volunteers,” said Andrews. “It’s their help that allows these people to achieve their goals.”
In addition to the certificate of completion, Sofia also came away from her experience with a heightened sense of pride.
“Just knowing that I can do it, that’s something I can show my kids,” she said. “I know if I want to do it, I can make it happen.”
Though she has been taking some time off since graduating, Sofia said she is getting ready to enroll in college and pursue a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
And additional tutoring is made available to clients who graduate from the HiSET program and are seeking to further their education at the college level. And several do return and share their stories of success.
“It’s inspiring to have graduates return to speak to with those currently enrolled in the program,” said Andrews.
As for those who may be considering attaining their HiSET certificate, Sofia said they should go for it.
“Don’t be afraid and don’t think you’re too old,” she said. “You have nothing to lose.”
* Names in this article have been changed.
Give a Gift of Hope
Thanks to the continued generosity of donors, Beverly Bootstraps remains community funded and supported. Donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, churches and local organizations all help provide critical resources to individuals and families so they may achieve self-sufficiency.
This holiday season, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Beverly Bootstraps.
To send donations, write ‘Gifts of Hope’ in the subject line of your check. Send your contribution to: Beverly Bootstraps Community Services, 35 Park St., Beverly, MA 01915.
You can also donate online at www.beverlybootstraps.org. Volunteers are also always needed for the various programs Bootstraps provides. For more information about Beverly Bootstraps, visit www.beverlybootstraps.org or call 978-927-1561.