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The new efforts to help adults earn their high school diplomas

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Posted at 3:49 PM, Feb 24, 2023

Carolina Caballero doesn’t often have time to sit and chat.

“My work is really hard," she said.

Every day, she cleans two houses— many times by herself.

Caballero moved from El Salvador to Rifle, Colorado in 2006.

“It’s really hard because you have to start a new life— new people, new language," Caballero said about the move.

Caballero doesn't have a high school degree, so she says cleaning houses is the best way she knows how to provide for herself and her two children.

Dwenna Holden helps adults with their education at Colorado Mountain College.

“The pandemic was particularly difficult for our rural mountain communities, especially historically-marginalized communities, so our Hispanic communities or Latino communities were especially hard hit," Holden said.

Caballero is taking classes at the college in hopes of obtaining a high school education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who didn't graduate high school make roughly $180 less a week than those who are in the workplace with just a high school diploma.

“Many of my students had to go to work for their families and support their families and our traditional high school system isn't set up for students to have full-time jobs and work," Holden said.

Holden notes that there isn't much of a difference between the value of a GED and an official high school diploma, but there is when it comes to cost.

The cost of an adult high school diploma course at Colorado Mountain College is $60 dollars and takes 16 weeks. A person who wants to obtain a GED will need to pass several tests, which cost $150. The cost can vary from state to state.

“A GED can take years to get, but a high school diploma program takes students just a semester," Holden said.

Right now, Holden's college needs to work with a local school district to issue high school diplomas.

A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature would give colleges the ability to issue them on their own, which Holden believes would be more efficient.

Many states are trying to improve adult education access. This year, Missouri launched a program where adults can earn their high school degree online for free.

“I think that there is sort of this forgotten pocket of students. And I think no matter the age, people should have access to education," Holden said.

"Before this, I was feeling stuck," Caballero said. "One day, I say no, I have to do it, I have to finish," Caballero said.

Not only does Caballero spend hours a day cleaning homes, but she says after her kids go to bed each night, she spends time studying. She plans to get her high school diploma in May.

She says she’ll be one step closer to her dream of becoming a teacher, and an example of why, even when it seems like a hurdle is too high, it’s important to find a way over it.