Going back to school for anyone takes determination and courage.  Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) is helping residents’ dreams come true by financially supporting RWCI’s High School Equivalency (HSE) Program, (also known as GED,) for the second year in a row. Staying true to the RWCI model, the program is place-based and available to residents 3 nights per week in the neighborhood. Residents says it’s the easy accessibility of the class combined with a warm, hands-on instructor, and a supportive environment that separates this HSE class experience from past ones.

Kisha Clyburn, RWCI Program Officer over Workforce Development and Secondary Education, explains that RWCI classes offer intentional instruction in a supportive environment.  Students comprise of both neighborhoods, Renaissance and Little Rock, the average age of participants is 30 years old. Many students are personally driven to attend the program in spite of the fact of previous failed attempts and current challenges in terms of employment and transportation. Last year, one student from the program named Tiffany worked so hard that she passed all 4 tests and walked across the stage at graduation at CPCC. She is a resident of Little Rock and a single mom with three children. Her goal was to inspire her children by walking across the stage and graduating. Tiffany’s accomplishments continue to inspire others today.

The RWCI HSE program includes dinner, child watch, computers, and classroom supplies thanks to PwC. Classes are facilitated by Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), averaging 5 to 10 students each session and the retention rate increased by 20% each semester.

During the Fall of 2019, a new set of students joined the program. At the end of the semester, 4 students were scheduled to take their exams on the same day. Concluding the exam, Kisha joined the students for lunch to provide support and celebrate their accomplishments. Looking forward to Christmas break with a test under their belt, one student expressed how proud she was of herself, considering that over the past 10 years she has been working towards earning her GED, she had never made it this far. One student received her results during lunch and learned she missed passing the test by 5 points. The second student received her results learning she failed by 3 points. The third student failed by 1 point. The group called the 4th student to ask if she had received her test results. Each young mother shared their score, then, hoped their classmate would pass, but none of them did this time.

Kisha can always be found encouraging all of the students as each overcome challenges before taking their exam (e.g., finding a ride to the testing location, forgotten I.D., battling test anxiety). Unfortunately, she did not pass, resulting in all 4 students failing their exams. Circumstantially, Kisha explains how she watched the weight of their dreams dissolve while comforting them and this is a daily dynamic among students. Despite their disappointment, they vowed together to not quit and continued in pursuing their overall goal. That same night, despite their disappointment, all 4 women were in their seat for class by 5pm.

Since then, we are happy to share that three students passed their exams before the end of December. Each students did not give up on their dream and put in the hard work to successfully pass their exams.

Two more exams are scheduled to occur over the next couple of weeks and she feels confident that the students who take them will pass. Kisha builds relationships with each student and is aware of their dreams to be business owners, healthcare professionals, and bankers. Kisha states that she feels honored to serve these students, providing a safe space for those to learn and celebrate.

A new cohort of students started class this month and it was an incredible sight to see… The room was completely filled with residents who wanted to earn their GED! Every seat was taken and they are there together with an incredible teacher from CPCC and their #1 cheerleader, Kisha.