Middlesex Township woman recalls earning Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma through BC3
Marcella Rogers was “mortified” on that February day when she began classes to prepare for tests to earn a commonwealth secondary school diploma.
“I was embarrassed to be in that position,” the 56-year-old Middlesex Township mother of three said. “I was afraid I was not going to succeed.”
During her senior year of high school, Rogers and her family moved from Dix Hills, N.Y., to Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I didn’t go back to school. It was late in the school year,” Rogers said. “We were under the impression that I had fulfilled my high school graduation requirements, that I would be getting a diploma in the mail.
“And that obviously wasn’t the case. It never happened.”
Rogers, her husband and children moved in 2015 to Butler County, closer to relatives and where she found employment with an accounting firm. Three years ago she was hospitalized with COVID-19, and still suffers from its effects.
“I couldn’t work,” she said. “I had a kid in college. I could not figure out any kind of work to do. So I knew I had to go back to school. But to go to college you have to have a high school diploma.”
Rogers began high school equivalency classes in February with BC3’s adult literacy program to prepare for tests to earn a commonwealth secondary school diploma.
“The individual attention,” Rogers said, “was phenomenal. The teachers are able to personalize their training to your needs. They’d show me the areas that I needed to work on. They found training material to give to me. They literally helped me through it, side-by-side.”
Rogers in April passed her fourth of four tests needed to earn a commonwealth secondary school diploma from the state Department of Education.
“We give them the confidence that they can achieve this,” said Barb Gade, grant director of BC3’s adult literacy program. “Our instructors are their biggest cheerleaders, and they help the students to be able to look beyond just getting their diploma, to what they are going to do afterward. Many of our students have enrolled at BC3.”
Fourteen students who had achieved commonwealth secondary school diplomas earned associate degrees or credit certificates in BC3’s Class of 2023, according to Becky Smith, the college’s director of records and registration.
Within days of passing her fourth test needed to achieve a commonwealth secondary school diploma, Rogers enrolled at BC3.
Rogers was among the 25 Butler County students who achieved a commonwealth secondary school diploma through BC3’s adult literacy program between July 1, 2022 and June 30, according to Gade.
About 550 students have earned commonwealth secondary school diplomas through BC3’s program in the past 14 years, Gade said.
Nearly 3,400 students obtained a commonwealth secondary school diploma through high school equivalency testing between July 1, 2022 and June 30, according to Whitney Newhouse, of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s division of adult education.
In mid-September, BC3’s adult literacy program will offer high school equivalency classes at four locations and five English as a second language classes at two.
High school equivalency classes begin Sept. 11 at BC3 @ Cranberry in Cranberry Township; and Sept. 12 on BC3’s main campus in Butler Township; at Pennsylvania CareerLink Butler County, Butler; and at First United Methodist Church Ministry Center, Butler.
Beginner, intermediate, advanced and multilevel English as a second language classes begin Sept. 11 on the college’s main campus and at BC3 @ Cranberry.
All classes are free as a result of state Department of Education funding, Gade said.
“I was extremely grateful the program was free, because of the state funding and local supporters,” Rogers said. “Had I had to pay for this, I never would have taken the chance on myself. I never would have made that investment because I really did not think that I was going to be able to succeed.
“There are people in the program who couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to afford it, so it’s a big deal that it is free.”
Median weekly earnings in 2022 for those without a high school diploma were $682, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Weekly earnings for those with a diploma were $853 and with an associate degree, $1,005.
“Their earning potential,” Gade said, “goes up exponentially.”
The BC3 Education Foundation offers eight named scholarships specifically designated to BC3 students who have earned a commonwealth secondary school diploma, according to Bobbi Jo Cornetti, development coordinator for the BC3 Education Foundation. Amounts range from $400 to $1,000, Cornetti said.
BC3’s adult literacy program also offers free courses in computers, financial literacy and essential skills.
For more information, visit bc3.edu/adult-literacy.
Bill Foley is coordinator of news and media content at Butler County Community College.