Fatima Peters decided to return to school to get her GED because of the possibility of a new job – and now she’s on her way to getting her bachelor’s in secondary education.
Fatima left Schurz High School after her junior year because her dad was strict and didn’t want her attending a co-ed high school. She then attended classes for a year at a school that ended up being unaccredited, and once she realized that she had wasted her money, she felt as though she was done with school. She then met her now-husband and they started a family, so getting her high school diploma wasn’t a priority. As her son got older, she started volunteering at his elementary school, which turned into a job as a teacher’s assistant, and then into a job as the school’s librarian.
When her son started high school, Fatima became very active on the Local School Council and booster club. There was a job at the school that was perfect for her – she would be able to work in the classroom and to use her Arabic language skills to help students. The one hurdle was that she needed to have her high school diploma or GED. While she was driving one day, she saw an advertisement for free GED classes and took it as a sign – she started taking GED prep classes at Wright College shortly thereafter.
Admitting that she struggled with math and science, Fatima found support from her family as well as from adult educator Karrie Simmons, who she considered to be “an adviser, counselor, therapist – everything! It would have been easy for me to give up, but I had someone who was in my corner, who held me accountable. I really relied on her.”
But she knew that it was important for her to earn her GED not just for a job, but for her son. “He never knew I didn’t get my high school diploma, and I was embarrassed to have that conversation. Here I was, telling him to stay in school and that education is so important, but I felt like a hypocrite.”
Her son was incredibly supportive, and learning the same subjects actually came in handy, as she was able to use his books and materials as resources, and he was able to help explain some math concepts that she was struggling with.
When asked what she would say to those who are unsure if they should go back to school, she says “When you’re out of school for so long, you feel like you aren’t smart enough. I think that moms especially feel like they have to put everyone else first and that between work and family, you don’t have time. It’s time to put yourself first. If I can do it, you can do it.”
In July 2017, Fatima earned her GED, by August she had landed a job as a student support specialist at a CPS high school, and by September she was taking classes at Northeastern Illinois University on a full scholarship to get her bachelor’s degree in secondary education. With her sights set on being an ESL teacher, Fatima is well on her way to conquering her next challenge.