Worth the Wait: MATC GED/HSED Graduates Overcome Obstacles To Earn Their Diplomas

Nearly 300 students receive high school credentials at ceremony

Mark Feldmann, feldmam1@matc.edu

May 21, 2024

GED/HSED Graduation MATC HSED graduate Samira Alsabki
GED/HSED Graduation Keynote Speaker JohnRae' Stowers
GED/HSED Graduation MATC GED/HSED Graduation

I stand here today as living proof that age, circumstances or past mistakes do not define our potential. We have the power to shape our destinies, to overcome the odds and to achieve greatness.

Samira Alsabki MATC HSED graduate

Three months of high school was enough for Samira Alsabki.

She was a headstrong, impulsive and obstinate 14-year-old when she dropped out of Milwaukee Public Schools’ South Division High School halfway through her freshman year.

“I believed that I could succeed independently without a high school education,” she recalled. “I was young, naive, impressionable and surrounded by the wrong crowd.”

At 19 she gave birth to her first daughter, Alexandria. A second girl, Angelina, came eight years later. She provided for her daughters as best as she could as a single mother, but her lack of education haunted her.

So at the age of 40, Alsabki went back to school and earned her high school diploma. She lived near the Social Development Commission, which offered General Education Development tests and High School Equivalency Diploma courses in collaboration with Milwaukee Area Technical College. 

In December 2023, she signed up for the HSED program. Then in April, the SDC abruptly closed and ceased all programs. Alsabki and 38 other students were left in the lurch.

“We were all in shock,” Alsabki said. “I was scared that this was another thing that life was going to take away from me.”

MATC took in the displaced students: 15 finished their program at MATC’s West Allis Campus and 24, including Albaski, finished online. 

On Monday, May 20, all 39 students from the SDC and 240 other students earned their GED certificates and HSED diplomas at a boisterous, ebullient graduation ceremony at MATC’s Cooley Auditorium. Alsabki was one of three student speakers at the event. 

See TV coverage of the event:

CBS Channel 58

WISN Channel 12

“My journey is a testament to the power of resilience, determination and self-belief. It serves as a reminder that it is never too late to rewrite your story, to chase your dreams and to prove the doubters wrong,” Alsabki told the graduates. “I stand here today as living proof that age, circumstances or past mistakes do not define our potential. We have the power to shape our destinies, to overcome the odds and to achieve greatness.” 

Tabitha Young, who studied through the YMCA Southeast Wisconsin, returned to get her diploma after her son asked her if she had graduated from high school. 

“I looked at him and told him ‘no.’ That was one of the hardest conversations I had as a mother,” Young said. “After our conversation, I thought about it and I realized there was nothing stopping me from getting my HSED. I wanted to show my children that I could accomplish more than just being their mother.”

Latasha Thurmond, who has six children and one grandchild, received her diploma from the Literacy Services of Wisconsin two years ago. She went back to MATC to study Business Management and received her associate degree at the college’s Spring 2024 Commencement on May 19.

She battled health issues, a bad marriage and mental health issues before going back to school. “The path ahead may not be easy, but I promise you, the rewards will be worth it,” she told the graduates. “Imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment you’ll feel when you achieve your goals, when you look back and see how far you have come.”

JohnRae’ Stowers, associate director of the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette University and a Milwaukee entrepreneur, delivered the keynote speech at the event.

She knew that almost all of the graduates, like Alsabki, Young and Thurmond, had faced and overcome time constraints, lack of support, lack of confidence and fear of failure to complete their education.

“You’re ready to change the trajectory of your lives,” Stowers said.

She encouraged the graduates to own their stories, create a strong network of support, understand their finances, take care of themselves, and set more goals. “Don’t stop here,” she said. “You have so much more to do.”

Alsabki certainly does. She plans to return to MATC in the fall and start taking courses to get a diploma in medical coding. “I’m not going to let anything stop me from pursuing my dream,” she said. “I know how truly valuable this education is.”

Find out about MATC’s GED and HSED programs

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 30,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.