Lillian Rivera spent decades away from the classroom before she decided it was time to earn her high school diploma. She left Schurz High School in the early 1990s when she was told she would have to repeat her junior year due to a lack of credits. After that, she worked various jobs, mainly in fast food, and raised her three children.

“When my youngest got to college, I finally had some time to think about what would really make me happy – and that’s why I went back to school. I had always planned on it, but it was finally the right time,” she said.

Her son had taken classes at Wright, so that was her first stop. Encouraged by the helpful staff, Lillian enrolled in Adult Education classes in the fall of 2018 to prepare to take her GED test. She passed them all in just a few months with the support of her instructors and a lot of dedication as she dealt with medical issues – often forcing her to stand through class. She even scheduled arm surgery for the day after the semester ended so that she would have a full month of recovery time before the spring term started. Once she had earned her GED in the spring of 2019, she decided to still attend math classes to further develop her skills before moving on to credit classes.

Her effort was not missed by one of her instructors, Rachel Michaels, who nominated her for the nationwide GED Testing Service’s GED Graduate of the Year Award – which she received in the summer of 2019.

Through City Colleges’ Adult Education Bridge program, she also took a healthcare-focused course. Now, Lillian has started her first semester of credit classes on her way to become a surgical technician. She is taking advantage of the Gateway program to get reduced tuition now that she has transitioned to being a full-time college student.

“I was so excited to go back to school and I had a great experience at Wright. The school is so diverse – there were people of all ages and backgrounds in my class.” said Lillian.

She also appreciated the support she received, and said her instructors and staff at the college never let her give up. Having tried to take the GED test three times when she was younger, this experience was completely different. “I couldn’t do it before – there were no supports and teachers weren’t so available. My instructors at Wright, on the other hand, would always get back to me, always help me when I needed it.”

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