The human services organization partners with BOCES for a special program
CANANDAIGUA — Jamie Lether was 31 when she suffered a stroke more than a decade ago.
It’s been a long road for the Shortsville resident, struggling to regain mobility on the left side of her body and relearning basic reading and math skills among other challenges. But at 44, with help from a program at Happiness House in partnership with Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES, Lether is hopeful for the future. She is on track to earning a high school equivalency diploma and hopes to go on and earn a college degree.
Lether and others in the program are working on what is called an external high school equivalency diploma. A group of those involved with similar goals gathered Thursday at Happiness House in Canandaigua to share their stories. They are enrolled in the External Diploma Program prep class that helps students increase skills in math and reading comprehension, skills needed to pass the Test of Adult Basic Education — the most difficult part of the process for students looking to obtain their external diploma.
“Math has been tricky,” admitted Lether, but she is making strides and is determined to land that diploma.
So is Robert Quinn Jr., 31.
“Many jobs require a high school diploma and it has always been a goal of mine,” said Quinn, who is looking forward to working in a clerical job after earning his diploma.
Quinn’s mother is Judy Goodman, adult program secretary at Happiness House. Her son suffered a trauma at age 1 and has autism. She talked about the change in her son since he started the program.
“He has found a whole new part of himself,” Goodman said, adding he is proud and confident. “He can do this. He is doing it.”
The EDP program is an extension of the Adult Basic Education, or ABE, course offered by BOCES. Unlike the General Equivalency Diploma program, the EDP is not strictly test-based and it allows participants to work at their own pace. The EDP course uses real-life applications to measure competency. Students may be asked to measure a room in their home and determine the size of a rug needed to cover the space or to analyze current events in writing.
Another student in the EDP program, Steve Ginther, 60, talked about how a medical condition prevented him from earning a high school diploma early in life.
Now, that goal is finally in reach, he said. Others vouching for the program include Mary Beth George with BOCES and Ellen Monagan, a literacy volunteer.
Happiness House began offering the program in 2012. Those who have benefited include students who sustained traumatic brain injuries prior to high school graduation or have another diagnosed disability and completed an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, in high school.
“As an IEP is not considered a high school diploma, this has created a hurdle when individuals are seeking employment as an adult,” said Jessica McDonald, director of Individual and Family Support Services for Happiness House/Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association.
“Individuals are being denied the opportunity because they did not have a traditional high school diploma. We have also worked with individuals who had a poor high school experience and as a result dropped out of school before graduation. Later in life they acquired a brain injury, which presents its own set of difficulties in finding and maintaining employment. These individuals often face barriers to opportunities as a result of not having achieved a high school diploma,” McDonald said. “The EDP collaboration between Happiness House and Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES has assisted individuals with traumatic brain injuries and developmental disabilities with the opportunity to work toward employment goals in preparation of work readiness.”
About five students are currently enrolled in EDP, with two of the five students actively working on their external high school equivalency diploma. The remaining three students are continuing to make improvements in preparation to take the Test of Adult Basic Education, or TABE, test. One student who attends Happiness House completed the program and went on to receive her external high school equivalency diploma.
“Happiness House has also supported students from the community to prepare for the TABE test. These individuals have come to us to prepare and, upon passing the TABE, they were able to complete the EDP program independently in their community,” McDonald said. “This program is hard work and requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the student. The program is open to those who receive services at Happiness House and to anyone in the community who may be interested in this opportunity.”