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After 20 years, I finally Did It!

5/8/2009

The cafetorium was at capacity as graduates, family members, friends and members of the Drake State Family prepared to celebrate a milestone. The first ever Adult Education Program featured about forty students who had completed the AIDT/Ready to Work Program and students who studied at Drake State to successfully attain a General Education Diploma. At the front of the line was Angie Westrupe.

Several of the graduates gave speeches, the college’s President – Helen McAlpine addressed the audience, The Academy of Academics and Arts Orchestra performed, the Drake State Choir performed, and then the moment Angie Westrope put on hold almost twenty years ago had finally arrived. When her name was called her friends and family screamed with excitement.

She received her diploma from Dr. McAlpine and her instructor – Susan Kreulen exchanging words of thanks and hugs with both. Westrope was an important part of the first graduating class, but she also epitomizes the very purpose of the Adult Education Program.

When Westrope was asked why she left school in the ninth grade, the answer was simple – “I have a nineteen year old son”. When she accepted her diploma, it was her three year old daughter sitting in the audience.

“My first child took me away from school, and my second brought me back,” states Westrope.

And while some see a G.E.D. as something they need to get a better job, for Westrope, it was resuming the pursuit of a dream postponed all those years ago.

In December of 2008, Westrope decided it was time to pursue her dream of being a nurse. However, without a high school diploma, this would be impossible. She arrived at Drake and began the preparedness courses to attain a G.E.D. Life took over again with a member of Westrope’s family in a car accident and in need of care. With a strong desire to care for people, again she put her dream on hold. However, a short time later, she was back in the program. It took only about a month of dedicated studying for Westrupe to prepare for the test - she passed on her first attempt.

“All I can say is that if anyone out there is thinking about getting their G.E.D. just do it! It changes everything,” says Westrope.

As part of the state sponsored Adult Education Program, each student who achieves a passing score on the G.E.D. Exam is given a scholarship for one college credit course at a two year state college. Westrope used her scholarship to enroll in the Certified Nursing Assistant Program at Drake State. This ten day intensive program requires class eight hours per day. The certification is not “official” until a student completes the educational program and passes the state exam to become a Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA. Westrope takes her state board exam this weekend.

Westrope had many friends in the audience, but two friends stood out the most; Ms. Kemp, her CNA Instructor and her best friend Peggy Baker.

“You cannot get a better teacher than Ms. Kemp, she was awesome; I wish she was teaching my LPN courses. Peggy has been my rock, the cab driver, my babysitter, and my friend through all of this.”

Westrope has also put that G.E.D. achievement to good use by enrolling in the Pre-Nursing Program at Drake State, with hopes to begin the Licensed Practical Nursing Program in August.

“Her story is truly a testament to the success of the Adult Education Program,” comments McAlpine, “It takes a tremendous amount of courage and discipline to achieve this milestone. The continuation of education beyond the G.E.D. of students like Ms. Westrope, proves that this program makes an impact on the lives of individuals, their families and our community.”

Westrope says she’s always dreamed of being a nurse. “Anytime anyone in my family was sick or hurt, I was the one who cared for them, it’s what I enjoy.”

The Adult Education and the AIDT/Ready to Work courses through Drake State are offered at the main campus on Meridian Street as well as numerous other locations throughout Madison County. For a complete list of locations, visit the college’s website at www.drakestate.edu.

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