City Colleges of Chicago

Gaspar Sanchez will speak at City Colleges of Chicago’s Adult Education High School Equivalency Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, June 4 at Arturo Velasquez Institute with his head held high. Naomi Monroe will do the same, with her three young daughters watching from the audience.

Both students earned their high school equivalency (HSE) this academic year at City Colleges and will share their stories as official student speakers at the June 4 ceremony.

More than 600 students from six City Colleges earned a high school credential in 2020, 2021, and 2022, and 100 of them plan to attend the ceremony, the first held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They will be celebrated by family, friends, and City Colleges faculty and staff who understand the hard work and sacrifice it took to earn their high school equivalency.

“Students join the Adult Education programs at City Colleges because they want more for themselves and their families,” said Luis Narváez, Associate Vice Chancellor for Adult Education at City Colleges of Chicago.

“Some of our students enter our programs hoping to learn English. Others come to Chicago from elsewhere in the world and need a United States high school credential as an entry point to future work or schooling. Many of our students join us to finish a high school program they had to put on hold to work, raise children, recover from illness, or care for elderly parents,” said Narváez.

Photo of Naomi Monroe
Naomi Monroe

Naomi Monroe was always a strong student while growing up on the Southwest Side of Chicago. But she began to struggle with attendance during her junior year at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy after the birth of her first child. A year later, she discovered she was pregnant with twins, so she dropped out of high school to care for her three children.

“I was basically being a mom during that time, and I put my education on the back burner,” Naomi said.

Six years later, she was ready to finish what she started. Naomi enrolled in Kennedy-King College’s Adult Education program, and she even completed college coursework at no cost through the Career Bridge program while preparing for her General Educational Development (GED) test. Naomi earned her GED in January, and her daughters were the first to see her passing score.

Gaspar Sanchez had a slightly different path to his high school equivalency. He was born in Mexico and enrolled in English as a Second Language courses, part of the Adult Education program, at Truman College in 2004. Gaspar’s journey to his high school equivalency was winding, but he was driven by the belief that hard work and consistency would lead to a better life for himself and his family. Now, he’s got his eye on a degree here at City Colleges and continues to strengthen his English language skills.

“Our students are connected by a shared desire for greater education and career opportunities,” Narváez said. “Our Adult Education programs are just the beginning of their journey—they pursue college credit, find meaningful work, and reach larger goals after earning their high school equivalency.”

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that people with a high school diploma or equivalency are 37.5% more likely to get a job than those without one, and they earn, on average, $9,500 more per year than people without a high school credential.

Photo of Gaspar Sanchez
Gaspar Sanchez

Both Naomi and Gaspar are continuing their educational journeys at City Colleges of Chicago to earn an associate degree. Naomi is on her way to a degree in early childhood education, and Gaspar is pursuing a career in construction management.

Naomi acknowledges that going back to school can be daunting, but she hopes others will enroll like she did.

“If someone reading this is wondering whether they can go back to school, I would tell them to think about where they want to go in life and ask themselves: “What am I doing to get there?” she said.

If you’re ready to earn your high school equivalency, City Colleges of Chicago offers free preparation classes for adults in English and Spanish, as well as English as a Second Language courses. Classes prepare students to take one of two tests: the General Educational Development (GED) Test or the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). Both credentials create additional college and career opportunities, as most colleges and employers accept GED or HiSET.