Meet IU13 Community Education Alumni

CarmenMeet Carmen

GED graduate, volunteer, PA Outstanding Adult Education Student, and more!

“I didn’t know I was hurting myself,” says Carmen Martinez of dropping out of high school at 16. The drop-out was the result of a childhood filled with unimaginable hopelessness—a family with a history of alcohol and drug abuse, a father in jail and his eventual early death, and a mother’s poor judgment.

After meeting her husband, Carmen, and Luis, later settled in Lebanon, a few blocks from a local elementary school where they signed up their son, Luis, Jr., then 3, for IU13 Head Start classes. Carmen volunteered in her son’s classroom and learned of IU13’s Family Literacy classes held in the same building. “I was nervous about the test,” says Carmen. When she earned her GED in 2000, Carmen described the experience as “the most ecstatic thing ever!”  She gives credit to her instructor, saying that Lynn Campbell will “give you the tools to get where you need to go; you need to do the rest.” 

Carmen’s community involvement as a volunteer with Head Start’s Policy Committee and journey to academic success earned her PA Outstanding Adult Education Student in 2000. Now a mother of three sons, Martinez earned an Associate’s Degree as an Administrative Office Specialist from Harrisburg Area Community College in 2011.  In February 2013, Carmen began full-time employment as a receptionist where she had begun her studies so many years before—the IU13 building in Lebanon.

Her sons have all been impacted by Carmen’s return to school. Oldest son, Luis, 17, says to his mother, “Mom, I hate school and the only reason I don’t leave is because of you and all you have done for me.”   Nicholas, 15, writes, “My mom has made me a strong-willed kid to go to school and maintain my grades and become something with my life and have something to look back and be proud to call my past.” Younger brother Christopher, 11, echoes Nicholas’s admiration for their mother, “She taught me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  When I grow up I want to be just like my mom because she is a role model.” 

(return to top)

BensonMeet Benson

Certified Nursing Assistant, artist, student, and more!

From artist to dishwasher to Certified Nursing Assistant, Benson Myrtil’s varied work experiences have taken him from his birthplace of Haiti to Lititz, PA. Benson was a painter in Haiti with a studio, art students, and galleries that exhibited his work. When he moved to the U.S., he put his painting career on hold while he learned the language and began working as a dishwasher. Soon, Benson found he was looking for more and enrolled in IU13’s Pre-CNA class to improve his reading skills. “The class helped me a lot. I learned English, study skills, and the information I needed for my future job. It made everything easier.”

Upon completing the Pre-CNA class, Benson enrolled in and passed a local CNA training program and earned his Red Cross certification. Today, Benson works full time as a CNA for Brethren Village. Additionally, Benson has started painting again, with his work recently exhibited at the Lancaster Public Library. Of his successes in the US, Benson says, “I was down here. Now I am at the top!”

(return to top)

SamboMeet Sambo

US Citizen, GED graduate, college student, parent, and more!

Born in a Thailand refugee camp, Sambo Bun relocated to the US in 1985 with her mother, brother, and grandmother. Today, Sambo is a single mom, caregiver for her brother, part-time waitress, and full-time HACC student who has traveled a difficult road. After falling in with the wrong crowd, Sambo dropped out of high school. She says she procrastinated about returning to school, but decided “it’s never too late.”  Of her IU13 Family Literacy instructor, Sambo says, “I can be grateful to her. She knew what I was capable of. She pushed me." Of her time in the IU13 GED classroom, Sambo explains, “One day at a time, I progressed. It got overwhelming. But it took me where I want to be.” Sambo also pursued U.S. citizenship, enrolling in an IU13 citizenship class and passing her test in 2012.

Today, Sambo has one year remaining in her quest for an associate’s degree in Social Sciences. “I can’t even ask for more,” she concludes.

(return to top)

HeatherMeet Heather

GED graduate, mother, role model, and more!

Over 20 years had passed since Heather Corch dropped out of high school when she decided to earn her GED. “It had been a thorn in my side for a lot of years. I wanted the GED for my own personal satisfaction.”

Feeling unsuccessful in school, at the age of 16 Heather persuaded her mother to let her drop out in order to pursue employment. A few years passed when Heather decided to begin GED classes. Before long, she gave up. More time passed until Heather again decided to pursue her GED, this time purchasing a book and studying on her own. “Once again, it didn’t go anywhere,” Heather explains, noting that having two young children was challenging enough.

“I was so scared because I had started and stopped so many times,” Heather says, describing her fears about enrolling in IU13’s tuition-based GED class near her home in Ephrata. After a few short months, Heather earned her GED in 2012. Heather credits her instructor with encouraging her, “I was stressed and nervous. The instructor never made you feel stupid. She always took the time to explain individually to those who needed help.”

Today, Heather is a role model for her sons, now in middle and high school. “Sometimes they would be frustrated with homework and want to drop out. But they saw how much I had to study and figured out they were better off sticking with school now.” 

(return to top)

Hong LamMeet Hong Lam

From ESL and GED Student, to College Graduate, to Teacher's Assistant and more!

Hong Lam would like to send a message to current students in IU13’s Adult Education Program:

“Question yourself.  Do you live up to your capabilities? Did you give yourself a chance? Did you try your best? Who do you want to become?” From English as a Second Language (ESL) student to GED student to Associate Degree and Bachelor Degree obtainment, and finally full-time employment in the accounting field, Hong has worked tirelessly to achieve her goals.

Her first step, as an immigrant from Vietnam in 1990, “was to learn basic English, how to communicate with people—just to understand.”  For four years, Hong worked full-time first shift and attended ESL classes at night. After getting married and having a child a year later, Hong took time off from class to take care of her family and to work to pay off debt.

When her oldest daughter was in all-day school and the youngest in day care, Hong decided it was time to earn her GED. She attended class in the morning, came home to study, and then worked from 3-11pm. Every day she came to class with questions and gradually began taking sections of the test. “My final test was writing. When I passed that one, I cried.”  Hong continued to visit her IU13 teacher, seeking advice about next steps. Her instructor encouraged her to go to college.

In 2004, Hong enrolled at HACC as a part-time student of business administration. Again, Hong worked and took care of her daughters, now 8 and 5 years old, while completing her education, which took four years. Hong shares, “But my goal wasn’t a two-year degree; my goal was four years. And again, God watched over my shoulder. In 2008 the factory slowed and they offered a severance package, which I qualified for. I immediately transferred to Millersville.” 

At Millersville as a full-time student, Hong shares that "My husband did everything while I focused on my studies." While attending classes, Hong saw a job posting at IU13 for a teacher’s assistant in a family literacy class. “When I saw that job online, I completely forgot about my career goal. For me, it was time to go back and help other students. I had been in their shoes. I wanted to come back and help them,” Hong recalls.

In 2011, Hong earned a bachelor of science in Accounting and was immediately hired by Murray Securus, where she continues to work today as a full-time accounts receivable assistant. Now considering returning to school to study the insurance industry, Hong says, “You set a goal and step by step, you keep going.” Hong also gives back to the community by volunteering with the United Way during tax season.

“I give thanks to the IU13 for helping me accomplish my goals.  The teachers helped me believe in myself.”

Hong’s oldest daughter is now a senior at Hempfield High School and is headed to Temple University in the fall on a full academic scholarship. Her younger daughter is in seventh grade and excels in soccer, track and field, and in academics. Just like Mom.

(return to top)

JuanMeet Juan

"Facing a drop-dead deadline, GED student beats the odds." (photo credit: Lancaster Newspapers)

Read about Juan Vadi here.

(return to top)