17:00 PM

A Second Chance: Adult Learners Earn a High School Credential


Most children and teens follow a straightforward educational path from grade school through high school. But for some, that path can be upended, causing them to forfeit their high school diploma.

"When students drop out of high school, it’s usually for a reason that has very little to do with them," said Linda Gordy, associate dean of College and Career Readiness.

Such was the case for Lisa Hutter – who earned her High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) from WCTC in 2019 at the age of 52.

When Hutter was 14, she worked at her father’s courier business to help support the family. Her homelife, she said, was dysfunctional, led by a controlling father who expected her to work many long, overnight hours. Her parents had a troubled relationship, and at times, Hutter would need to step in and care for her younger siblings.

This led to her regularly missing school and eventually, dropping out. She worked odd jobs and later found steady, long-term employment. At 40, she had a heart attack, followed by other serious medical issues that led to multiple hospital stays. She lost her life partner and her home, and she ended up taking disability benefits due to her health. These hardships, she said, led to a breakdown.

A therapist helped her move past the dark times and encouraged her to think about her future. "After talking with her, I realized I wanted and needed get my high school diploma. It was something that was always missing." So, from 2018 to 2019, she buckled down and completed the HSED program. "I was all in."

Different Completion Options

WCTC offers multiple high school completion options, awarded by the state Department of Public Instruction, said instructor Beth Wille.

The General Education Development (GED) certificate consists of five tests in civics, math, reading and language arts, social studies and science. 

The HSED focuses on classroom work, and many variations exist, including those based on high school credits, post-secondary education, foreign diploma and competency. 
Courses focus on health, careers and employability, social studies, science, communication skills, computers and math.  
A Spanish HSED is also available, said instructor Lynn Spangler, noting it is a great option for those who want to earn their high school credential first and then tackle English as a Second Language classes later.

A new, Integrated Education and Training program recently began, which provides basic education to students working toward a high school completion credential and occupational skills training. WCTC is offering three tracks: business, CNC machining and healthcare.

Those seeking to earn a high school credential take an assessment to determine their skill level, and they work closely with faculty and staff to map out the best approach for their individual needs.  They complete an orientation, participate in boot camps and meet regularly with instructors. The experience also helps them bond with other students working toward the same goal.

Further Educational Opportunities

HSED and GED students take classes on the main WCTC campus, which gives them a glimpse of what they could go on to achieve.

"Our students are immersed in the college experience prior to being a college student," said instructor Shanna Eger. "They meet in the HUB, go to events on campus and feel part of the community, which really encourages them to further their education here."

Hutter is doing just that. She’s currently enrolled in four College IT programs (thanks to overlapping credits), was named to the dean’s list and received an award from the National Technical Honor Society.

While she’s proud to be a College student, earning her high school diploma, she said, has been her greatest achievement.

"The most important moment was when I got that diploma," she said. "(The instructors) built up my confidence so much. I’m happy WCTC has this program; it’s helping a lot of people." 

>>For more information about the HSED and GED, visit