Madelyn Reyes took the GED test three times before she finally passed all the sections.
"I came from a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn. I've had a complicated, hard life," she told a crowd of people at HCC's GED graduation ceremony April 12. "Even when I didn't pass the first time, second time, I still kept going. I didn't give up."
She credits Theresa Eccles, HCC's chief GED examiner, for giving her the confidence to continue. "If it wasn't for her telling me I had the potential, that I could do it, I would have given up," said Reyes, who is 39 and lives in Chicopee.
In February, Reyes took the next step on her educational adventure. She started classes in HCC's Culinary Arts program and said she hopes to be a baker someday. But on Thursday, she and more than three dozen others were handed certificates signaling that they had passed the GED.
"What you've done is huge," said Eccles, who encouraged the students not to stop with a GED, or General Education Development certificate, which entitles recipients to begin taking college courses.
"I'm all about the next step," she said. "Everyone has a story. You all came to the GED for different reasons, but the next step is important."
Adriana Piantedosi dropped out of high school when she was 16, but had always intended to go to college. She passed the GED last year and is now enrolled in HCC's Adult Basic Education Transition to College and Careers program, or ABE TCC, and will begin taking college-level courses in September.
"Passing the GED is simultaneously a milestone and a stepping stone," she said in her speech. "On one hand it's a big accomplishment. On the other hand, it's just the gateway to whatever you're going to do next. What you've achieved goes beyond the certificate you got in the mail. You made a conscious choice to improve your life. You've set yourself on the path to success."
Photos: (Left) Adriana Piantedosi prepares to give a graduation speech at HCC's spring GED graduation ceremony. (Right) Madelyn Reyes smiles after accepting her GED graduation certificate, joined by her son Jadiel.