GED/HSED grads overcome much on their path to diplomas

May 12, 2014

From “GED/HSED grads overcome much on their path to diplomas” — WAUSAU — Jason Wolfgram said he grew up on the “rough south side of Milwaukee, where finishing high school, or even imagining of going to college, was completely unheard of.”

But on Friday evening, Wolfgram, 36, was wearing a dark blue graduation gown and mortarboard, standing in front of his three children and a crowd of fellow GED/HSED graduates, their friends and family members, talking about how he earned his diploma after years of selling and taking drugs and spending plenty of time behind bars. He talked about how he was now working as a welder and taking human services classes at Northcentral Technical College.

Wolfgram was a student speaker at NTC’s commencement ceremony for its GED, or General Educational Development, and HSED, or high school equivalency diploma, programs. He was one of more than 250 graduates receiving the diplomas at NTC this spring.

NTC President Lori Weyers and keynote speaker state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Stettin, spoke about how important those diplomas are. They stressed that the graduates had achieved a crucial accomplishment that can help lead to a successful life.

“Years ago, it was possible to make a living in this world without an education,” Petrowski said. “Those days are over.”

That’s one reason why Melody Olson, 55, of Colby decided she would pursue her GED. When she was a teenager, “I didn’t like school,” she said. “So I quit, married and had kids.”

Now her three daughters are grown, and she has four grandchildren with a fifth on the way. She moved from Baraboo to Colby to be with her longtime boyfriend, Jim Powell, 59. She said she couldn’t find a job without a high school diploma, but it also simply bothered her that she didn’t have a diploma. So with the encouragement of Powell, she enrolled in NTC’s individualized, self-paced GED/HSED program.

“I thought, ‘I gotta do something,’” Olson said.

Getting the GED has given her confidence, Powell said.

“That was really important for her,” Powell said.

Wolfgram made his decision while serving time in the Marathon County Jail.

“I wanted to make some serious changes finally. I wanted to be a person that my family, mostly my babies, could and would look up to,” he said. “You see, all my life, I have lied my way through applications, jobs, to support my family. I never understood the true meaning, or the feelings associated with receiving a diploma. But today I stand here, before all of you, with what’s accepted as a high school diploma.”

Wolfgram thanked the NTC staff members forsticking with him and helping him earn the diploma.

“Like I said earlier, I’m just the product of rough streets,” Wolfgram said. “The stigma of a violent offender. A drug user. A dealer. Those things are all in my rear-view mirror right now.”


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