Two area parents joined friends, loved ones and supportive community members to celebrate an achievement they worked diligently toward, each of them inspiring their children along their journeys to success.

Jessica Denaro and Daniel Morrison each received their High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) diplomas during a celebration presented by the Bethel Baptist Association and Christian Women's Job Corps on Thursday, July 20. They each attended weekly courses that spanned just over a year, thanks to a grant written by NECAC Deputy Director for Housing Development Programs Carla Potts. With the help of Horizon Housing Foundation and NECAC, Denaro and Morrison balanced their daily tasks as working parents with HiSET courses to achieve a brighter future for their families.
Their journeys took perseverance, juggling of everyday responsibilities and reaching for inspiration — but they emerged with smiles and stories of success.

Denaro said she looked forward to pursuing a career in the medical field or as a counselor for children and young adults. As Denaro worked toward her diploma while balancing the daily responsibilities of being a single mom, she always thought about her children — through the highs and the lows.

“I can show them there's nothing that you can't do,” she said. “You can do anything.”

For Morrison, his journey began from the throes of alcohol and drug use. On May 9, 2011, he dropped to his knees and made a promise to give his life to God, asking for his family to be cared for while he was in an Indiana prison. He said God made everything possible. As he worked at County Market, Morrison attained six promotions during the approximately 1 1/2 year time span of pursuing his diploma. Morrison said he aspires for a position at the corporate level with County Market.

“It felt like a really big blessing from God,” he said. “After turning my life around, He just opened so many doors, and they just continued to open constantly. I'm just truly blessed.”

Micki Biedscheid, Social Service Coordinator with Horizon Housing Foundation — an organization that works in conjunction with NECAC to use low-income housing tax credits through limited-partner investors like Sugar Creek for services like weekly HiSET courses across the region. She said the two graduates reflected the dedication it takes to receive a HiSET diploma at this stage in their lives.

“When you start a family and you have to work, it makes things tough, and it takes a different level of perseverance, I think, to get through and actually be successful,” Biedscheid said. “So I hope they'll become lifelong learners and continue to learn, continue to grow for the betterment not only for themselves but for their families, as well. It's essential to the success of the entire family that education be emphasized.”

Hannibal Affordable Apartments Manager Tammy Niffen joined everyone at the ceremony in celebrating Denaro's and Morrison's milestones. She said they were each tenants of NECAC affordable housing; each of them have since moved as they continued to reach for future success. She said she enjoys each year's Back to School Fairs, where they hand out stocked backpacks for children and receive applications for the HiSET programs at Hannibal Affordable Apartments, Anderson Estates in Palmyra, along with locations in Lewis County and Moberly.

The fairs will be hosted at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, at Hannibal Affordable Apartments; 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, at Anderson Estates in Palmyra; 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, in Lewistown, 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 in LaGrange; 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 in Canton; and 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, in Moberly, Niffen said.

For more information, please visit the NECAC website at https://necac.org or call the NECAC Marion Service Center at 573-221-7166. To learn more about Horizon Housing Foundation, please visit www.horizonhf.org .

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com