Grace Outreach Brings Hope to its Graduates
As the 80 graduates of Grace Outreach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women earn their General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and prepare for college, professional training, or new employment, entered the auditorium, the room erupted into cheers. For many of the graduates, receiving their diplomas not only signified the completion of their studies at Grace Outreach, it also indicated they would be starting a new chapter in their lives.
“One of the most important lessons our students learn here is to take responsibility for themselves,” said Margaret Grace, the program’s Founder and President. “Many of them come here not believing that they have the ability to succeed. Through individualized programs and dedicated teachers, we help them recognize their strengths.”
A majority of the women who come to Grace Outreach share similar experiences: 70% are between the ages of 18 - 24; they dropped out of high school and many are also mothers. It is the shared desire to obtain better opportunities that draws women to pass through the program’s doors.
The benefits of having an education are well documented. A report from the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau reveals that over an adult’s working life, high school graduates can earn an average of $1.2 million; those with a bachelor’s degree can potentially earn $2.1 million, and having a master’s degree can net $2.5 million. Grace Outreach’s mission is to help women reap the benefits of education by offering a curriculum that focuses on math, reading, and writing skills.
“I knew I needed an education and everyone was very supportive. We have great teachers and there are no distractions,” said recent graduate, Jasmin Arroyo, who credits Grace Outreach for her decision to enter the Navy. Upon entering the program, students are immersed in a learning environment from 8:45 am until 2:30 p.m., 5 days a week. Many of the women find it easier to focus on their studies without the presence of male students and are more comfortable contributing to class discussions.
Six graduate tutors lead the classes, which are divided into 3 levels (A, B, and C) according to a student’s readiness to take the GED exam. For some of the staff, working at Grace Outreach is like a homecoming. “I grew up in the neighborhood and might have gone to junior high with some of these girls. The difference is not everyone made it through. I went on to college and now I’m here to give back to the community,” explained Karen Ciego, Career Coach and College Advisor.
In its future plans to expand the program into satellite centers that offer courses on preparing for college and writing resumes, Grace Outreach is determined to help students “make it through” and continue moving forward in their careers. As demonstrated by the graduates, determination can go a long way.#