President Barack Obama took executive action on Nov. 20 to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program eligibility, including those older than 31 years of age.
Now, people of any age are able to complete their High School Equivalency Testing (HSE) preparation, take their HSE examination, and move on to college studies, provided they meet the two additional requirements of arriving in the U.S. prior to age 16, and have been a resident since 2010 or longer. Prior to the executive order, a person would have had to be in the states since 2007.
"Preparing for a high school diploma is the first step to move into what a person has always wanted to do," said Cynthia Pierrott, program manager for Adult Basic Education at Truckee Meadows Community College. "The HSE certificate opens the door for higher education, better jobs, promotions and more opportunities in general."
Many choices are available for class time and location, and the next round of classes start January 24.
There are four 10-week sessions of prep classes each year with a two-week break between courses. Sessions take place at two locations: Dandini campus and Meadowood Center. Classes are two hours long and participants may choose one of eight sections offered, which include two morning sections, an afternoon class, one of two evening sections at either campus, or an online course.
"Just come see us, and we’ll help people get started," Pierrott said. "We try to make it easy, so there are no barriers for entry. We have amazing teachers, and a transition advisor that helps with the entire process."
She adds that education and career advice are given, but no legal advice.
The first step is the most important for a person of any age or background
"Maybe people don’t have time with work, have children, or they might not know it is OK to come back to school," Pierrott said. "They might not know how to start. Some people ask, ‘Am I too old to come back to school?’"
She stresses now that the age cap has been lifted, a person can start working toward their high school diploma at 31, 51 or beyond.
To start, a prospective student calls the ABE office at 775-829-9044 to make an appointment for an orientation session. Staff at the center help to assess placement and direct the student into the proper place in an HSE session. The ABE office also covers English Language Learner (ELL) programs, and can help arrange language tutoring.
Individual tutoring by staff and volunteers is available in all subject areas. Hours for tutoring are Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Two High School Equivalency Examination types are offered at Meadowood
"There is a great demand in Washoe County for a high school diploma," Pierrott said.
The testing center at Meadowood schedules High School Equivalency tests monthly. Students can choose from the GED® test, a widely used test offered on the computer only, or the newer HiSET® exam, given on the computer or on paper.
Each test covers five basic knowledge areas:
- Language Arts – Reading
- Language Arts – Writing
- Mathematical Reasoning
- Social Studies
After passing the exam, a student is called a high school graduate.
"They get a certificate of High School Equivalency from the state of Nevada, and we hold a graduation ceremony for students in June," Pierott said. "We have a valedictorian who scores the highest on their test."
The transition advisor then helps in planning what is next after successfully completing the test, whether it’s a job or continuing into college classes.
Devin Miller is an HSE graduate whose goals are firmly in place.
"I’m studying for an Associate of Science in Biology and would like to transfer to a four-year university toward a degree in marine biology," Miller said.
For more information about HSE classes or the English Language Learner (ELL) program, call 775-829-9044.