Test Takers from Louisiana
HOLDEN: I really had to figure out what I was gonna do. Like, I wanted to finish school but I just didn't.
ALEXANDER: I quit in the seventh grade, and I realize now what a mistake that was.
SEAN MARTIN: 600,000 Louisiana citizens who are working age do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
TRACY: Nowadays, you've got to have knowledge, degrees and minimum wage wasn't cutting it. The check was gone before I even got it.
LATASHA: Every little dime that I make counts. It's accounted for. But I make sure that I have everything I need for school.
SEAN MARTIN: The HiSET test is the high school equivalency utilized in Louisiana that brings the opportunity for them to change their life and bridge the gap to the middle class.
LATASHA: My name is Latasha Martin and we're currently in Winnsboro, Louisiana.
It's been a struggle. It's not a day that didn't go by where I didn't even think whether I'd have a place to stay that night.
I didn't like home because I got pushed harder than my sister and my brother. So I just moved back to Winnsboro, Louisiana to start over, thinking that I could get my high school diploma here. Y'know, but work took over that.
As far as trying to get a good job, and $7.25, minimum wage - it was hard, it was real hard, so when I got to the age of 22, I made it my duty to get my HiSET.
TEACHER: Miss Martin?
LATASHA: My special, special, special teacher is Mr. Drew McCarty. He pushed me the hardest, oh my God. But at the end of the day, I knew why he did what he did. And it was because he saw the same things that my parents say they saw in me. And I still to this day, I go in and he'll have some math papers laid out. And I will get them and just do them. I even go in and help tutor some of them.
So when I got my HiSET, I mean I've got three job opportunities. I also got in college while I was getting my HiSET, and right now I'm in my Nursing course.
And by the age of 26 I plan on being an RN. So I'm just taking it a step at a time.
HOLDEN: Well my name is Holden. We're in Denham, Louisiana.
I actually deliver appliances as of right now, until I can actually start and get enrolled in school. We go about 100 miles each direction. It's pretty long hours. Worked about 70 hours by the end of this week.
I was still enrolled in Brusly High. Y'know I was going through my sophomore, junior year. And um, actually my girlfriend found out she was pregnant. And I kind of slowed down in doing my school work. I really shouldn't have. I should have kept it up, but I didn't. And it was uh – it was pretty hard for me, y'know, I had to make a decision. I really thought I didn't have any other options. Y'know I didn't know what I was gonna do, if I could graduate, get a diploma or whatever.
But then I found this HiSET program and I'm so glad I did. It was a great program. I was in and out in about 40 days. Loved it.
I plan on going to night school right now, and figuring out what trade I want to do, and what I want to get into. When I actually do have some money saved up I can go to school for business, business marketing, I don't know really. But, starting pretty young, only 17, so.
In my perspective, if you experience what I'm going through right now, your best bet would probably be to get your HiSET. You could basically do whatever you want, you could still go to college, you could still work a full time job. So it's really worth getting.
ALEXANDER: Alexander Grogan. Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.
The community I was in, y'know, everybody was selling drugs. And I ended up in prison, in Louisiana for the past 24 years.
Be getting out soon. Got like 13 months. And I'm gonna weld.
Welding is a way to make money, support yourself, support you and your family. It's a hard skill set. You have to really be on it to learn it. You need math because you got to know what one-eighth look like, you got to know what 15 degrees look like, and you got to have your travel speed right. So, gotta learn math.
When I came in, I didn't know how to do a fraction. So every day I go to work. And the tutors here – the tutors here are amazing.
And I was willing to learn. So I put my all into it. And a few months, I got everything in a few months.
The HiSET is a good program. And for a person that's hungry, that want to get it, he's gonna get it.
After you graduate, it feels so much better. It's like a weight being lifted off you. And it just helps you with so many other things.
I'm trying to do everything before I go, everything that it's gonna take to keep me out there to be a productive citizen. I won't come back here.
TRACY: My name is Tracy Parisi. We are in Bayou Pigeon, Louisiana.
I was married for 21 years. I left home at an early age, and I didn't finish school.
And, you know, it was a struggle. So I divorced my husband and moved back to Louisiana. And it was really hard. Losing everything you have. Being homeless.
And that's when I started going back to school.
I went to school every morning. I was the first one there and the last one to leave. I took the same class and doubled it in the evening just in case I missed something. And I came home and got on the computer.
I never would have thought that I could say two years ago, I would be sitting where I am today. I met Mike. He's extremely supportive, and he has been since day one.
MIKE: When I first met her, she really didn't know what she wanted to do. And like I tried to explain to her, if you don't have your education, you can't have anything. And she went and got it.
TRACY: The HiSET program itself was absolutely amazing. It helped me to be more confident. I see things in a whole new way. And, I mean, I'm just blessed that I was part of it for one.
I have goals. And I'm gonna make them happen.
SEAN MARTIN: When a student comes to us and asks for a high school equivalency, we believe what they're really asking for is a better life.
ALEXANDER: I'm trying to be a better person than what I was. Everything in my power, I'm trying to make it happen. For the good.
LATASHA: It means a fresh start to me. It means life changes.
SEAN MARTIN: It's about helping people realize the talents that they have within them. It's about helping them realize their dreams.
HOLDEN: The sky's the limit. One of the best decisions I've probably made in my life, so far.
TRACY: Things I dreamed about before I never saw happening, happen today.
SEAN MARTIN: With a great partner like HiSET, we're making a difference in people's lives.