Like many adult education students, Kristine Rose was a high school dropout.
She was 40 years old, a single mother of two and working as a waitress when she decided to go back to school. After just three months, though, she decided to give up.
"I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, crying for two hours," she recalled. "I just got home after a double shift. That night I said to myself, 'I tried. I gave it a shot,' and I made up my mind not to go back."
The next day she received a call from her advisor, telling her to come back. Eventually -- after four such messages -- she did.
Rose's story is one of success -- and the reason she was selected to give the keynote speech at the 13th annual College for Day event Friday at HCC.
About 150 adult basic education students and teachers came to HCC to get a taste of college life and attend classes taught by HCC professors.
"College for a Day is about exposing ABE students to the community college environment and hopefully planting a seed so they transition to community college to further their education," said Michele Sedor, interim director of SABES at HCC's Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center in downtown Holyoke and the event organizer. "We're really wanting them to get sense of what college is like and what classes are like."
Rose earned her high school diploma, then went to Berkshire Community College. She is now 47 and a junior at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley and plans to graduate with her bachelor's degree next spring.
"Even if I had to go back to waitressing, I would still do it," she said, "because my education has done so many other amazing things for me -- brought people into my life, given me confidence and created additional identities for me I never knew existed."
It wasn't always a smooth ride, she said; the transition to college was uncomfortable at times, and she was often full of self-doubt. She started at Berkshire Community College intending to get a certificate in human services. Then she changed her major to social sciences.
"All through the changes, I thought I was doing things wrong," she said, "just like when I was in high school."
"I am here to tell you there is no one right way to do this," she added. "The idea that there is a right way is what holds us down. It's helpful to know what others are doing, but we're all different. We face different obstacles, we have different abilities, we face different challenges. You have to be able to say, 'This is what I want, this what I need,' then ask yourself, 'How do I make it happen?'"
Edward Gelineau, 50, of Springfield, a student in the Hampden Transition to College program, said he was already registered to begin taking classes at HCC next fall.
"The transition to college program has been excellent," he said.
He plans to study Culinary Arts.
Photos: (Left) Kristine Rose, a student at Mount Holyoke College, gives the keynote address at the 2013 College for a Day event at HCC. (Right) Irving Concepcion and Cisco Correa, students in the Hampden County Transition to College program, attend the College for a Day event at HCC. (Thumbnail) HCC Culinary Arts teacher Marty Yaffe gives College for a Day students a lesson in baking bread.