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Earning High School Equivalency Diploma Improves Lives

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Christina Caudill of Jonesville is a 37-year-old mother who is proud to say that she earned a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma before her daughter graduated from high school in May 2019.

Caudill was born in Winston-Salem and attended 16 different schools, and lived in many more homes, throughout North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina during her formative years, which made it difficult for her be a successful student. She finished eighth grade, entered ninth grade and was 15 years old when she quit school the first time. She went back to the ninth grade when she was 17. She got married, and then her first husband made her quit school. She had been emancipated as an adult because of her marriage.

“I quit school the second time because I had a miscarriage and had gone back to school. There was a situation where a teacher was being mean to me because I needed to keep my feet up in the classroom. He didn’t understand. I ended up cursing the teacher, and I got suspended. So, I didn’t go back even though I was on the A/B honor roll. Then, I was a single mom at 18. My daughter came first, and I went without.”

Caudill started the journey to get her diploma on August 28, 2018, by attending an orientation, which included placement testing, at Surry Community College’s Dobson campus.

This time she was happily remarried to husband Joseph and her daughter FaithDestiny and son Brandon were high school students.

“I finished the program in three months. I had passed all the tests by the first of November. I walked at my graduation ceremony one week before my daughter walked at hers,” Caudill said. “My daughter was the first in the family to earn a traditional high school diploma.”

Caudill’s best friend Heidi was a big fan through her successful attempt to get a diploma. The ladies met online playing video games, which developed into a friendship where their families would go camping together.

“I had tried to do the HSE program several times before, and life happened,” Caudill recalled. “I had been overwhelmed before. I thought this time, I am not going to let anything stop me. I have a better support team now. Heidi would send me encouraging text messages and call me. She drove three hours to come to my graduation.”

Caudill now works at a Lowe’s customer service center and has already gotten a promotion since she started working there on the Installation and Support Team.

“I was perfect for the job, but I couldn’t have gotten it without my HSE.” Caudill said. “It is a much better job than what I was doing working in fast-food or running a cash register at a gas station.”

She likes her new job because the pay is better and comes with employee benefits. She can also earn bonuses based on job performance, which helps her stay motivated. Her job requires that each customer call is handled with empathy, good listening skills and with a plan to resolve the issue.

Caudill recommends other adults to return to school to finish what they started.

“I’ve had to overcome a lot. I want my kids to be fighters, not for their lives, but for what they want. I had to fight for my life. I was given away at 11, and I was living on the streets at 12. I am proud of myself because I finally finished school. I wanted to be a good example for my daughter and son. I wanted to practice what I preached to my kids,” she said. “I have lost out on many opportunities because I didn’t have an HSE. I had to struggle a lot. It was not easy to go back to school. I had a horrible life, but I am a strong person because of it.”

She studied for the diploma tests by visiting the Elkin Center where SCC Instructor Cathie Bray tutored her. She chose the HiSET option for HSE, which included taking five tests – Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies

“I started the program with only an eighth-grade education. The instructors were amazing and a big support. Cathie Bray, my instructor, would show me other ways to solve problems. She would teach it in a way that helped me understand,” Caudill said.

Bray said: “Christina Caudill’s story is an inspiration to other adults who would like to earn their high school diploma. It’s never too late.”

Surry Community College offers students many options to earn an HSE or Adult High School diploma. Contact Jennifer Pardue, Director of College and Career Readiness/HRD, to learn which program suits your needs at (336) 386-3674 or parduejs@surry.edu. Many grant opportunities are available for students. Check to see if you are eligible at surry.edu/funding.

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