Some of the 29 people receiving their GED or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) diplomas Thursday, Aug. 14, from the Hannibal Career & Technical Center (HCTC) credited their teacher, Donna Brown, with their success.




Some of the 29 people receiving their GED or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) diplomas Thursday, Aug. 14, from the Hannibal Career & Technical Center (HCTC) credited their teacher, Donna Brown, with their success.

The annual GED/HiSET graduation ceremony was at Arch United Methodist Church this year.

“We had 29 graduates and over 200 guests,” said Helen Gilliland of the HCTC, who coordinated the graduation.

Roberta Blackwell, a single mother raising four children, was very excited to receive her HiSET diploma.

She will immediately continue her education. “I am starting college on Thursday (Aug. 21) at Moberly Area Community College to become an RN,” she said.

“I set out a plan and started action, and getting my diploma was the first step.”

Crediting her teacher, Donna Brown, for her success, Blackwell said. “Miss Donna, my teacher, is so wonderful. Miss Donna would sit there and teach it like she was teaching a class.

“I appreciate everything she did,” Blackwell continued. “If I didn’t understand something, she would explain it. She really takes the time and effort. She is a very caring individual.”

Brown also encouraged Blackwell when she took her test. “When I went to take my test, I was so worried,” Blackwell said. “I had not been to school in over 20 years. She gave me a hug. … She told me she had faith in me, and it was all right - I was going to do fine, and it was a relief.”

Finding time to complete her high school education was challenging for Blackwell. “It is something I never had the time to be able to go back and do it,” she said. “I had to shuffle it around and make the time.”

She combined working full-time at the SW Call Center – where she has worked since 2005 - with attending classes twice a week at the HCTC, beginning in October 2013. “They really assisted me (at the Call Center), to give me time to go to classes on Tuesday and Thursday.”

She did some classes online, such as her general studies. After completing her classes, she waited until February 2014 to take the test.

Blackwell’s four children at home include her 13-year-old son, Steven Martin, who “is in every sport;” her 11-year-old daughter, Shyonna Martin, a Girl Scout and cheerleader; 6-year-old son, Daquan Martin; and 4-year-old grandson, Quanelle Hutz, whose medical issues require speech and physical therapy.

Despite her busy life, Blackwell was determined to complete her education. “I did it to better provide for my children,” she said. “I want to be able to tell them you need to graduate from high school and get a good education.”

Blackwell has advice for someone considering completing their high school education. “Sometimes it’s not easy, with the challenges that life gives you, but once you take that first step, you just have to keep going. … Once you are done with it, it is so much better. The hardest part was taking the first step.”

McPike challenges fellow grads

Lana McPike, one of the graduates who spoke at the ceremony on Thursday, said her story was different from the others. This was because she had a diploma from a home schooling program, but learned she needed more education for the jobs she was seeking.

Now that she has completed her high school education, McPike said, “I just had a second interview with a company in Hannibal.

“I graduated in 1998.” she said, and later learned “that was not sufficient enough for some employers.

“As things have changed in society, they just needed something more. … That is why I went back and got the GED, so I wouldn’t have any questions.”

A Hannibal native, McPike lived elsewhere for about 10 years. Now she is newly married to Wayne McPike and seeking a new career.

“It was a lot to learn in eight weeks of school,” McPike said, “but I tried to study real hard and took  advantage of the teacher’s help.

She took classes three days a week and chose to attend the HCTC instead of doing online classes. She explained why: “I chose to go into the classroom setting, feeling like being out of school for 15 years, I might need help. I found a lot of success with that.”

“I had Donna Brown as a teacher, and she was amazing,” McPike said. “She knew what to run us through to help lead us on the path to success. She works hard. And Helen (Gilliland) is really helpful, too.”

McPike advised other people to “reach out to the Career and Technical Center if you can take advantage of a classroom setting. I found that to be a really positive experience. You had others there to encourage you along the way, and you had your teacher there.”


Future testing

will be on computer


The graduates had passed their tests at various times during the past year, Gilliland said. The HCTC is now the testing center for Northeast Missouri.

In the future the testing will all be for the HiSET diploma, she said. This is done on a computer.

Gilliand reported one good aspect of the  computer-based testing is that all except the writing element is done on computer. This means the students know at the end of the test if they passed it.

That saves weeks of waiting to see if they passed, she said. The writing element is scored manually and that takes about three business days after the test is taken.

“We have three classrooms in the Hannibal area, and all students must attend an orientation that is scheduled with me,” Gilliland said. To schedule it, call (573) 221-4430 Ext. 3001 or ask for Helen.