Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

‘Don’t Give Up,’ Adult Learners Counsel

Going back to school to get your GED isn’t easy, but ‘keep fighting.'

These adult learners share why they wanted to pursue their GED and what keeps them motivated. Photos provided by sources/NNS.

These adult learners share why they wanted to pursue their GED and what keeps them motivated. Photos provided by sources/NNS.

Returning to school as an adult can be overwhelming. From finding the right program to the schoolwork itself, it can be hard to know where to begin and how to find the motivation to keep going.

These five students reflect on why they wanted to pursue a general education development or high school equivalency diploma and share advice for fellow learners.

Are you interested in pursuing your GED or HSED? Read: It’s never too late: Six adult education programs in Milwaukee.

Photo provided by Teresa de la Cruz/NNS.

Photo provided by Teresa de la Cruz/NNS.

Name: Teresa de la Cruz

Program: Journey House

Teresa de la Cruz is obtaining her GED for her three daughters. When they’re struggling in school, she wants to help them. It’s also been a dream of hers to continue her education.

De la Cruz is a student at Journey House, which offers a program for adults looking to obtain their GED.

Upon completing the program, de la Cruz hopes to change careers. She currently works as a cleaner at a school, but her hope is to open a child care center.

The program can seem hard in the beginning, but it gets easier.

“You can achieve your dreams,” she said. “You think you can’t, but you can.”

The Journey House program is great, she said. The teacher Juan Lopez is very helpful, and students can receive one-on-one help. 

Photo provided by Silvia Vidrio/NNS.

Photo provided by Silvia Vidrio/NNS.

Name: Silvia Vidrio

Program: Journey House

Growing up in Mexico, Silvia Vidrio’s dream was to go to school, but school was expensive, and her town didn’t offer a proper education. When she came to Milwaukee, Vidrio’s dream became a possibility.

Vidrio is taking GED classes through Journey House. She’s been in the program for three years. Her goal upon completing the program is to get a better job and provide a better life for her family. Although she’s not sure what she wants to do yet, one of her ongoing homework assignments is to think about it.

Juan Lopez, the adult educator at Journey House, is the best part of the program, Vidrio said. When she begins to doubt or struggle, Lopez is there offering words of encouragement. Journey House also offers a lot of support, she said.

Her biggest piece of advice to adult learners is to try.

“You have to try, and little by little, you’re going to be motivated,” she said.

As Vidrio prepares for her math exam, she’s taking her own advice to heart to not give up.

“If someone has this dream, don’t stop there,” she said. “Keep fighting and moving forward.”

Photo provided by Tonie Mankunas/NNS.

Photo provided by Tonie Mankunas/NNS.

Name: Tonie Mankunas

Program: Milwaukee Area Technical College

For the past 20 years, Tonie Mankunas has been working on obtaining her high school equivalency diploma at Milwaukee Area Technical College. This past fall, she entered the school’s 5.09 High School Completion Program. Mankunas is the first person in her family to complete high school.

For her it’s about proving she’s more than her past struggles. Her children and her friends have been a constant source of support.

Mankunas plans to attend MATC for college and study sign language interpretation.

Her advice to adult students is to not give up. People may think a diploma is just an inconsequential piece of paper, but it symbolizes more than that, she said.

“Don’t give up,” Mankunas said. “No matter how hard it is, just don’t give up. Keep going no matter what.”

Finding the right teachers played a critical role in Mankunas’ success in the program. They understood her problems and helped her bypass them to get her to the place she’s at today.

MATC is an extremely special school, she said. 

Photo provided by Josefina Romero/NNS.

Photo provided by Josefina Romero/NNS.

Name: Josefina Romero

Program: Journey House

When Josefina Romero was 11 years old, she had to leave school. Her family was struggling to put food on the table, and they needed her to work. She’s been working ever since then. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Romero lost her job and she decided it was time to focus on her goals.

“I realized I was always thinking of others and not of myself,” she said. “I want to do this for me.”

Although she has been in the United States for 26 years, Romero had never heard of education programs for adults. Her niece and sister-in-law connected her to the GED program at Journey House and shortly after, she began taking the courses online.

Education leads to opportunities, she said.

Her goal for now is to complete the program. It’s difficult, she said, and sometimes she struggles to balance her education with her other responsibilities such as work and family.

Romero’s advice to students to students is to realize that they’re not alone in the struggle.

Photo provided by Enrique Gonzalez/NNS.

Photo provided by Enrique Gonzalez/NNS.

Name: Enrique Gonzalez

Program: Journey House

Education is important to Enrique Gonzalez. On the practical side, obtaining his GED could lead to a better job and will help him maintain his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals card, but he’s also learning a lot. Gonzalez is using the knowledge he’s gaining in classes such as math and U.S. history to apply to his everyday life.

Gonzalez participated in Journey Houses’ GED program, which helps students prepare for their GED exams.

The hardest part is sticking with it, he said, but Journey House does a good job at explaining things and making it understandable.

Sometimes adults are scared to return to school because they don’t want to give a wrong answer, Gonzalez said, but everybody is there to learn, and nobody cares if someone gives the wrong answer.

“If you want it, you can achieve it,” Gonzalez said.

‘Don’t give up’: 5 adult learners share advice was originally published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

2 thoughts on “‘Don’t Give Up,’ Adult Learners Counsel”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    There is a small piece of paper on my refrigerator that says, “Never Give Up”. I went back to school twice during my working career after life knocked me off my feet.

    Wishing lots of success and a good education to all five of the adult students mentioned in this story.

  2. sbaldwin001 says:

    Hats off the these learners! I was given an education, but these students are earning an education. They deserve much more credit for this, and I hope some day they are rewarded. My one question is this: Knowing what they know now, would they have waited to start their families until they were further along, if it was possible?

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