Test Takers from Iowa



[music starts]

BEATRIZ: When I was looking for a job, like, they ask for high school to get more pay.

KAYLA: I wasn't eligible due to the fact that I didn't have my diploma.

ALEX HARRIS: In Iowa, there's over 200,000 individuals, 18 and older, that do not have a high school diploma.

VICTOR: It's kinda tough. The jobs really, y'know, they pay you what they want to pay you. You can't really get the jobs that you want to.

JENN: Just restaurants, hard work, doing all the hard labor and little pay..

ALEX HARRIS: In Iowa, the HiSET assessment is a new form for achieving your high school equivalency. And we certainly want to provide that second chance, that opportunity, for these individuals to take the next step in their lives.

[music ends]

JENN: I'm Jenn and we're at my apartment in Cedar Falls.

Probably every little thing you could find to be wrong about a kid was me.

I didn't enjoy going to school or anything. And, so I just kind of gave up.

So then finally I found out I was pregnant with my son, and I was like – I gotta get an education.

So when I went to start my HiSET I was super nervous. I was scared, I didn't think – I thought it was gonna take forever, y'know?

I got done quick and it was easy for me because I studied my butt off.

It was pretty much me sitting here on the couch with a laptop in front of me and my baby sleeping in my arm.

Or if he wasn't sleeping, I was reading him the questions so that he could learn too. It was quite fun, actually.

ANNA Hi, Jenn!

JENN: Anna's the transition specialist for Hawkeye. The day I graduated she already had a gift for me. Congratulations! I was like, I didn't even tell you if I passed! I knew you'd get it Jenn. [laughs]

She's really helped me out with everything. For a GAP tuition that helps me pay for my CNA, my Certified Nursing Assistant, that I just got.

I've gotten my HiSET done, my CNA, I'm about to start my LPN. I've gotten so much done in less than a year, all thanks to how fast and easy it was to get my HiSET.

VICTOR: My name's Victor Harris and we're at Sioux City, Iowa, at Western Iowa Tech.

I went from being an honor roll student when I went to school in Indiana, and moved to Kansas City. And my grades dropped and my father pulled me out of school when I was fifteen. And when he pulled me out of school, he wanted me to run his trucking business with him. So I kind of just gave up, and all I thought about was working.

Until I came here when they had the HiSET, and I got it in two months.

Here they have a classroom setup, y'know it's like regular classes. You've got teachers that go over things with you and they help you out.

They really cared, y'know, they wanted you to succeed.

Working at these jobs where you don't have a high school diploma or anything, equivalency, it's kind of hard to support your family.

But now it's like after the HiSET, that just opened up a lot of doors for me.

PROFESSOR: So we add those together, and our simulator data …

VICTOR: As soon as I completed my HiSET, that same day I went and enrolled for classes for Mechanical Engineering.

And it feels good. Y'know, completing that, it's like there's times where I'll even go inside my file cabinet and go pull out my diploma and look like, I did it, y'know.

And it's like now, I have goals. I mean, I've never had goals before. And you see life a whole 'nother way.

BEATRIZ: My name is Beatriz Castro and we're in Des Moines, Iowa.

I'm from Mexico, and when I was a little girl, that was my dream: To come to the United States, learn English, learn how to drive, and have a college degree.

But the town where I was raised, it was a really small town and they didn't have a high school. So I decided to stop and work to help my mom, because she was a single mom, raising three kids.

HUSBAND: All right, girls, let's go outside so Mommy can do her homework.

GIRL: Okay.

BEATRIZ: Last year, in the summer, I was telling my husband that I wanted to work to help in the house expenses. And he said that it was better to continue my education. So we decided to come and ask for information, and I did my HiSET in here.

It was really hard for me. But they got really good professors in here that can help you to go through. And you have the option to take it in Spanish or in English, so that's really good.

And I tell my kids that they were gonna be really proud because I was doing good at school.

ANNOUNCER: Beatrice Castro, HiSET.

BEATRIZ: And they got excited and they got happy, and like: See Mommy, you could do it!


KAYLA: My name's Kayla Johnson and we're in Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.

I went to the ninth grade and after that I got caught up in the streets. And of course everybody knows what happens when you get caught up in the streets.

So at that time in my life I wasn't really ready for an education.

My HiSET was fabulous. I mean, I had help from my teachers and several tutors that pushed me along to make sure that I did this, because they felt as well as myself that it was something I wanted to accomplish. And I did.

TEACHER: Excellent. Well done. Nice job.

KAYLA: Right here, this meant I got my diploma on November 20, 2014.

I feel great. It's kind of unexplainable because it's like, you know, I've never been in this situation. So it's like a new feeling, just joy. Free. Y'know even though I'm in prison, I still feel free within myself because I've made some accomplishments.


ALEX HARRIS: We know that it takes a lot of courage walking through that door. It's a hard step to take, but we also know that it's an important step to take.

KAYLA: Now it's like, I know I can do anything I set my mind to do.

BEATRIZ: If I could do it, everybody can do it.

ALEX HARRIS: Completing the HiSET, it's a great goal. But it's not the end.

VICTOR: It feels good. And with the stuff that I've been through, and jobs that I've worked at, y'know I just keep pushing myself.

ALEX HARRIS: We want them to continue on to their next steps. And our programs are there, ready to help and support them do that.

JENN: That's just a step on the way, yes. I'm working too hard to stop now.

[music ends]