Neither Codey Sanchez, 19, nor his girlfriend, Jessica Flores, 18, took high school all that seriously when they were attending schools in New York City. But the pair quickly learned that a diploma or a high school equivalency degree is necessary to get most jobs.
"There's nothing (out there without a diploma)," Sanchez said.
After dropping out of school, first the young couple moved to Florida and then, about six months ago, decided to move to Minot to stay with Flores's sister, Angelica Flores.
Angelica Flores, who was already enrolled in the Minot Adult Learning Center's GED classes, told her sister and Sanchez that getting their GEDs, or high school equivalency degrees, should also be their first priority. She worried that they wouldn't have time to study if they concentrated on getting jobs first.
With her encouragement, Sanchez, who is from Harlem, and Jessica Flores, who is from the Bronx, enrolled in classes, studied hard and encouraged each other to finish the classes. Flores and Sanchez said they took classes at the same time and, when both had passed the test for one subject, moved onto the next class.
Now Angelica Flores, Jessica Flores and Sanchez will all be graduating with their GEDs during the Adult Learning Center's graduation ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Minot High School-Magic City Campus. They are among some 80 people receiving GEDs this year.
Sanchez is happy to have recently found a job for a local cleaning service. He and his co-workers are cleaning Target in Dakota Square Mall during the wee hours of the morning after all of the customers have gone home.
Without a GED, he wouldn't have been able to get the job, he said.
"I want to go to college," said Sanchez, who isn't sure yet what he would want to major in, though his talent for drawing might come into play. Sanchez hopes to return home to New York sometime later this year and seek out advice from his old school guidance counselor about which schools he might apply to.
Flores is currently looking for work. She said she would also like to go to college at some point and thinks she might want to become a pediatrician. She also plans to return home to New York later this year.
Both Sanchez and Flores praised the teachers at the Adult Learning Center, who went out of their way to encourage them. At Flores's old high school in the Bronx, students were assessed using portfolios of their school work throughout the year rather than by giving a lot of tests.
As a result, Flores said she isn't a good test-taker, but students must pass tests to earn their GEDs. The teachers at the Adult Learning Center looked for ways that she could be successful, such as letting her take a test in a quiet room. Flores said she wanted to give up at one point, but the teachers encouraged her so she was able to finish.
Sanchez, who said he's never liked to read, said the teachers at the Adult Learning Center were a big help when it came to reviewing English grammar.
Both said that they like Minot, but it is quiet compared to what they are used to in New York. They had a lot of time to study during North Dakota's long winter.
Now that they have earned their GEDs, they'll be able to move onto the next phase in their lives, whether it is continuing to work or pursuing a college education, they said.
"They're hard-working people," said Adult Learning Center director Jennifer Kraft.
Kraft said the GED classes at the Adult Learning Center now put a great deal of emphasis on job readiness. People like Sanchez often find that employers require new hires to have a high school diploma or GED.
The Adult Learning Center also offers academic review for people who have already earned a high school diploma and want to brush up on certain subjects before starting college.
The Achieving Customized Employment Skills program is a 15-day course designed to prepare people who are actively seeking employment. This course offers skill enhancement in office technology, soft skills and job readiness.
Following the 15-day course participants can attend a Job Club training or schedule private appointments to help transition into the job market. Also available are English as a Second Language classes.