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HSE diploma has local woman moving down road confidently
By Cindy Klepper - Thursday, November 17, 2016 8:37 AM
Originally published Nov. 14, 2016.
Alisha Morrical still has a hard time comprehending how her life changed in five months.
“Five months,” she says incredulously.
Then, she was a high school dropout bouncing from job to job, trying to support three young sons.
Now, the 25-year-old Huntington woman is the proud holder of a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, looking forward to a career in the medical field.
“It’s been a road,” she says.
The road began to straighten out last March, when she decided she needed to get that diploma. Her 7-year-old, she says, had told her that since she hadn’t finished high school, he was going to drop out, too.
She pushed herself to sign up for classes through the Impact Institute at the Huntington County Community Learning Center, found a friend in instructor Laura Smart and, just five months later, passed the test to earn her diploma.
Today, she starts classes to become a certified nurse aide (CNA). She’s the first in her family to take post-secondary classes.
“In a matter of seven months, eight months, I’ve accomplished a lot,” she says.
It was the birth of her first son — the 7-year-old with a plan to drop out of school — that began a chain of events that kept Morrical from graduating with her class.
“I became a mom at 17,” she says. “By the time I hit my senior year, I had my second baby. It was just too much.”
Morrical, who has since given birth to a third son, went back to school after the first baby was born. She tried it again after the birth of the second, but it was just too much.
“I was overwhelmed,” she says. “I couldn’t do it all myself.”
It didn’t help that her academic success in high school was spotty, at best.
“In high school, I failed a lot of my classes,” she says. “At alternative school, I started getting credits, but it was just too much. I’d put him to bed, study, and then get up and go to school.”
So the teen that Smart calls “very intelligent” gave up.
With no partner in the picture, she was trying to support herself and three boys.
She left a convenience store job when the paycheck proved to be just too small; a temporary manufacturing job ended; she was let go from another job after family issues got in the way; and the 10-hour days at yet another factory didn’t leave her enough time to study and take care of the boys. She had a couple of other jobs that didn’t work out.
“I felt like I wasn’t getting ahead,” she says. “I was falling back.”
Then came the remark from the 7-year-old. It motivated Morrical to work toward the diploma, signing up for classes that teach her what she missed in high school.
Morrical attributes her ultimate success in large part to Smart’s willingness to work with her one on one, tailoring the information to Morrical’s needs.
She started thinking of Smart as a friend, not just a teacher. That friend would nudge her, through text and phone calls, if she felt Morrical was falling behind.
“The rapport is very important,” Smart says.
Students in the Impact class work online and with the instructor, individually and in groups, learning math, science, social studies, reading and writing, along with employability skills.
The classes include people who didn’t finish high school for health reasons, because the school wasn’t a good fit, for any number of other reasons and for no reason at all.
“I tell them, I don’t care,” Smart says. “We’ll just work with you where you’re at.”
Students range in age from 16 to 82. Some already have high school diplomas, but want to brush up on their skills before taking entrance exams for college or the military. Others need to improve specific skills for their jobs.
“For some of them, it’s just a life goal,” Smart says. “It’s just to better themselves.”
Some sessions, the classes included as many as 15 students; other times, just two, Smart says. Work, child care and transportation issues may keep them from getting to class.
“This is adult education, and they’re adults,” Smart says. “They have to be in charge of their education.”
Smart worked in special education before joining Impact three years ago, so she says she’s accustomed to the flexibility required to tailor her instruction to the needs of individual students.
That was a big help, Morrical says.
“I had a big issue with math in high school,” she says. “When Laura broke it down the way I needed it to be broken down, I started understanding and comprehending … she would get it to where I understood it myself.”
When Morrical took her HSE test, one of her highest scores was in math.
“I knew what she needed to work on, and she knew what she needed to work on,” Smart says. “Everybody is different in the way that they learn.”
Impact offers both daytime and evening classes — all free, funded by the state — and Morrical was attending two-hour classes every evening.
“It was difficult,” she admits. “As a single mom, I had to figure out babysitters and everything.”
Her mom was a big help with the babysitting, she says.
Morrical took her first HSE test in June and passed everything but the writing section. She regrouped and took the test again a couple of months later.
“I officially passed in August of this year,” she says.
The question then became, what next?
“I didn’t know where I was going after my HSE,” Morrical says, but she knew she needed that equivalency diploma before she could do anything.
A career assessment done as part of the Impact class suggested Morrical would do well in the medical field. Grandparents who dealt with diabetes and cancer, as well as a nephew with disabilities, also pushed her in that direction.
“I want to go into the medical field because of that,” Morrical says.
Thanks to the support of her parents, she won’t be working while she’s taking the CNA classes. And, she says, going through Impact’s HSE preparation classes changed her outlook.
“If it wasn’t for the program, I wouldn’t have such a good attitude about going back to school,” she says.
She says she won’t stop when she earns her CNA credentials.
“I plan to take it from CNA all the way up until I can’t go any more,” she says. “My end goal? I don’t really have one, honestly. I plan to strive.”
And when the successful HSE students have their graduation ceremony in February, Morrical will be one of the speakers.
For more information about Impact’s HSE preparation classes, call Smart at 579-5254.