Rosa Caporal dropped out of high school in 10th grade.
“I felt like I always did good in school, but I had self-esteem issues [in high school]. I always wanted to go back but didn’t have the initiative.”
That changed when a counselor at Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center told Caporal about the Journey House Adult Education GED Program. Although Caporal had heard of Journey House, she didn’t yet know what to expect of the program or how big an impact it would have on her life.
Journey House, a community organization committed to increasing education, reducing crime and unemployment and strengthening families, has been running its GED program since the 1980s, when it became an official delegate agency of Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).
According to Glorianne Mather, a teacher at the Journey House GED program since 1996, many students come to the GED classes to improve their basic skills; not all of them attain their GED.
She explained that as a teacher “rewards come when you see students become more outgoing, get jobs, get promoted. It’s little steps versus big mountains,” said Mather.
These “little steps” would eventually help Caporal to not only improve her educational status but also to come out of her shell. In September 2010, she began taking classes at Journey House every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. After starting the day babysitting at 6:30 am, she would spend the afternoons and early evenings studying reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
In class, Caporal met a wide range of students of all ages and a variety of backgrounds. And, unlike in her high school classes, she felt a sense of camaraderie among the students.
“No one was judging. It wasn’t like in high school, with the cliques.”
The classes allowed students to work at their own pace depending on their skill level. Students who started at the same time were able to bond and share their knowledge with one another.
“Even though it was only three hours a day, it made me get out and be more social. Before [the class] I was closed. It’s helped me to open up,” said Caporal.
About 200 students participate in Journey House’s classes every year. They complete their GEDs in varying amounts of time, depending on their learning rate and how often they are able to attend class. When students feel they have attained enough knowledge to take a subject test, they schedule them individually. Caporal took her tests on Saturdays, leaving math and writing, her most difficult subjects, for last.
“With the others [reading, social studies and science] the answers are in the booklet. You just have to find them. With math, you have to go from the basics all the way up to algebra. It was difficult,” said Caporal.
After successfully passing all of her subject tests, Caporal attended the graduation ceremony hosted by MATC at the U.S. Cellular Arena in May. Of the approximately 300 students who participated in the graduation program, 37 were from Journey House.
Walking across the stage to receive her certificate was a moment of triumph for Caporal. “I invited all of my cousins to watch. There was no limit [for the number of attendees]. I could’ve filled the whole arena! My family was so proud. And I was proud of myself.”
Caporal now plans to enroll in classes at MATC, possibly pursuing a career in medical translation. “I want to do something where I can really help people,” she said.
Beyond her GED, Journey House has introduced Caporal to additional community programs. She is now also a member of the Violence Prevention Initiative, a program sponsored by the Medical College of Wisconsin that aims to reduce and prevent violence in the Milwaukee area.
Caporal has encouraged other members of her family to get involved in Journey House. Her mother recently enrolled in an ESL program and Caporal is encouraging her cousin to pursue her GED.
“I told my cousin: time doesn’t run out for your education,” said Caporal.