Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Overcoming Obstacles

Rio Salado Graduate Earns Diploma, Builds Confidence

“I had chosen motherhood over a master’s degree, car seats over corporate ladder climbing, and babies instead of a briefcase and a Beemer,” said Wilma Macliver, of Phoenix, as she delivered the commencement speech to more than 100 graduates during Rio Salado College’s recent General Education Diploma (GED) graduation ceremony at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

Macliver is not a celebrity guest speaker receiving an honorary degree. She is a graduate who finally earned her GED after dropping out of high school in 1981 during her junior year to get married and start a family. Despite being a proud parent — both of her sons graduated high school with honors during their junior years — Macliver was not satisfied with letting her high school diploma elude her for nearly 30 years.

“Not finishing high school really bothered me. I felt like I wasn’t setting the right example for my kids,” said Macliver. “And now that I have grandchildren, I need to be a better role model.”

To overcome this obstacle, Macliver attended free GED classes at Rio Salado’s Orangewood Learning Center, which is one of 19 locations throughout the Valley. This wasn’t her first attempt at earning her GED. More than 15 years ago, she took classes with a different organization, but gave up when the instructor told her she couldn’t pass the exam.

“My first attempts to take GED classes were very negative,” said Macliver. “The first place I tried had an instructor who told me I wasn’t smart enough to pass the test, and the second place didn’t have any teachers. It was a do-it-yourself program, and that is not the way I learn. I need people I can turn to with questions.”

Luckily, she had a better experience with Rio Salado. At the Orangewood facility, she was welcomed into a positive environment with coordinators and teachers who focused on her needs and offered her encouraging words.

“My experience at Rio Salado was much better. Coordinator Kate [Tsepilova] was very kind and inviting,” said Macliver. “Preparing for the GED test meant partnering with the correct people, and I found those people here.”

This partnership did more than teach her the lessons she needed to pass the GED exam. It provided her with the determination to succeed.

“When I first met Wilma she was lacking confidence and looked very uncomfortable,” said Tsepilova, Rio Salado’s instructional coordinator at the Orangewood Learning Center. “After scoring well on placement tests, she gained some confidence. But after she passed the GED tests, she became much more confident and poised.”
At the beginning of the year, Wilma Macliver was going on her 28th year of being a high school dropout. Today, with the support of Rio Salado College, Macliver is a self-assured high school graduate who is looking forward to taking her first college class in the fall.

“This is about more than getting a GED,” said Macliver. “This is about overcoming the obstacle of thinking ‘I can’t.’”

Classes are funded by the Arizona Department of Education, Adult Education Division. For more information about Rio Salado’s Adult Basic Education program, visit www.riosalado.edu/abe.