Iris of Milwaukee lived with a secret, something she hadn’t even revealed to her closest family: she had not graduated from high school.
“I didn’t want to be seen as a failure,” said Iris. “My husband is well educated, military - I didn’t want him to think less of me.”
Iris always went the extra mile at her jobs, motivated to prove that she was just as capable as her colleagues. “I was rewarded for my hard work but overworked in my mind and emotions,” recalled Iris.
Finally, Iris reached a breaking point. Her secret weighed heavily on her and she was ready to put things right. “It was now or never - I was ready to get my degree.”
Iris’s husband and children were extremely supportive. Right away, her husband began researching High School Equivalency Degree (HSED) programs and found out a good friend had graduated from Literacy Services of Wisconsin. Iris signed up.
For nearly 70 years, Literacy Services of Wisconsin has provided education and skills training to help local adults improve their lives, enrich their families, and strengthen our community. Donations to United Way’s Community Fund support Literacy Services’ Adult Education program.
In the Summer of 2020, Iris was part of Literacy Services first-ever 100% virtual HSED cohort. “It was a relief to see there were other people in the same boat as me,” said Iris. “That gave me a boost of motivation to push through.”
Iris found the coursework and deadlines challenging. One night, Iris was up late studying and started to cry. “I reached out to (my instructor) Mikelle and said ‘I’m gonna lose it!’ And she told me ‘you’ll be fine, take a second, don’t beat yourself up about it, try again tomorrow.’”
In late 2020, Iris achieved her goal, graduating from Literacy Services’ online HSED program. When her diploma arrived in the mail, Iris’s children and husband had her sit on the couch, hummed ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ made speeches, and presented her with her diploma. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. “It could have been a Kleenex commercial!” recalled Iris.
Today, Iris works a full-time job and supports her three children as they navigate their own education journey. She is also excited to pursue her Associate's degree at Midwest Bible College in the fall. Instructor Mikkael and Literacy Services continue to be resources for Iris, who reaches out any time she has questions.
“This journey has marked my life forever,” says Iris.
Iris and Literacy Services of Wisconsin remind us all that to live better, we must Live United. Consider supporting this important work with a donation to United Way’s Community Fund.