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Beacon of Hope marks its 43rd GED graduation

June 17, 2016
By ED FRANKS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Four years ago the Beacon of HOPE took on the challenge of helping people prepare for better paying jobs and a more prosperous future by offering a GED program. Recently the Beacon's GED program graduated its 43rd graduate - 44 year old Bokeelia resident Joel Arias.

Joel Arias was born in Cuba in 1972. "When I was 13 my father moved mountains to get us to the United States," Arias said. "He knew the opportunities were better here. I spent many years thinking about getting my GED and when Betsy approached me and introduced me to everyone I decided to go ahead and just do it."

"The program is just amazing," Arias said. "The people, the program, everything is way beyond anyone's expectations. The courses were challenging but everyone was so patient and understanding they made it much easier for me."

Article Photos

Joel Arias (right), a city of Cape Coral employee, receives his General Equivalency Diploma.

The graduation ceremony was held with a full capacity crowd at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers. "We always go as a group," Beacon of HOPE director Betsy Haesemeyer said. "Joel has two sons in middle school and several members from the Beacon all arrived at the Harborside Event Center to celebrate our graduates."

"This program has done incredible things," Beacon of HOPE president Elsie Stearns said. "We just learned that one of our graduates from two years ago was just accepted into the Army. Another graduate recently completed the Lee Medical Assistant program and she'll graduate Tuesday. She's a single mom and already has a job at a doctor's office with a pretty good starting pay."

"One of our very first graduates, a single mom, will be getting her dual masters in IT and health technology," Haesemeyer said. "So many have benefited from this program."

In a thank you letter to director Betsy Haesemeyer Arias wrote, "Now that I've finally earned my GED, I wanted to take a moment to thank you and the Beacon of HOPE for all you do for the community. Betsy, your encouragement, discreetness and positivity were key in my decision to join the GED program at the Beacon. It was a tough commitment for me, but the staff and volunteers made it easy to remain focused since they were so flexible and understanding."

"Our GED coordinator, Mary Lou Martin, and the mentors spend an enormous amount of time helping the students along," Haesemeyer said. "George Miller (instructor), Dick Maher (math instructor) and Diane Maher (science and social studies).... They put in nights, weekends and basically what ever it takes."

For those who left high school before graduating the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is the answer. The exam is composed of five tests: Language Arts and Writing, Language Arts and Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science.

"The love and support offered by all were undoubtedly the reasons why I kept pursuing this challenging degree," Arias said. "After starting a new job, Richard (Maher) took me under his wings and graciously offered special tutoring sessions at his home to accommodate my new schedule. I could not have passed that grueling math exam without his help."

"I work for the city of Cape Coral trimming trees and removing invasives," Arias said. "And you can't move up without the GED but immediately after I got my certificate I received a promotion."



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