Rachel Ossman: From High School Drop-out to Honor Student
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/4/2019
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- In her graduation address to fellow Anderson 1 and 2 Adult Education GED graduates last year, 40-year-old Rachel Ossman read a quote by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale that today serves as her mantra: “Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
“Believing in myself has been the toughest obstacle I have had to overcome,” said Rachel, of Piedmont, who dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and battled insecurities about her academic ability, which kept her from attaining her GED for more than two decades.
“Thanks to Anderson 1 and 2 Adult Education, Mrs. Janice Walpole, Mrs. Kim Stroud, and Tri County Technical College, in August of 2018 --- months after receiving my GED, I graduated from the I-BEST Pathway, and the following semester I enrolled in Tri-County’s Administrative Office Technology program. Now I have more confidence than ever. I have a positive outlook on life, and I’m motivated to do more than I ever have done before,” she said.
“As a rebellious teen,” Rachel says, “I didn’t think I needed school.” She had no problem finding minimum-wage jobs, like waitressing and working as a clerk. “I was making money and wasn’t thinking about the big picture,” she said. She met her husband at age 17 and they married. He had his high school diploma and a full-time job as a machinist and was able to support them.
“Being a high school graduate himself, he always tried to get me to go back to school. Eventually I decided I’d try to get my GED, and I failed at it because, yet again, I was not being serious and made excuses for why I couldn’t do it,” she said.
For 13 years she was a stay-at-home mom, content to raise their three children.
Over the years she attempted six times to study and prepare for her GED but was derailed by personal setbacks -- the loss of both of her parents within a month of each other and being overcome with self doubt about her academic abilities.
“In 2010, for my birthday, my last gift from my mother was when she enrolled me in Adult Education classes. I was attending, feeling confident, and three days before Christmas, she died. My father died, one month later, to the day,” she recalled.
“I was devastated by the loss of my parents,” she said. “I basically quit life for five years. In October of 2016, I began to think about school and what she wanted for me so I enrolled again. I had all those same feelings of doubt, except this time I didn’t have my mother to help me through it. What I did have that I overlooked before were my teachers who worked hard not only to teach me but to help build my confidence, my family who supported me, and my husband and kids who helped me study daily,” she said.
Once she gained momentum in Adult Education classes, she says a conversation with Mrs. Stroud put her on the road to continuing her education by enrolling in the I-BEST classes that are designed to meet workforce needs and are offered, free of charge, to individuals who qualify.
I-BEST programs are different because they focus on immediate employment and pathways to careers requiring an associate degree. They blend college credit, non-credit training, and industry-recognized skills certifications. They also build confidence and competence for jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and for continued college study.
“I-BEST even paid for my college application fee, ID, and parking pass. That’s awesome,” said Rachel.
After enrolling at Tri-County, she landed a part-time Administrative Assistant job at Anderson 1 and 2 Adult Education, working alongside her mentors and role models, Mrs. Walpole and Mrs. Stroud.
“I never pictured myself in college. But Adult Education built my confidence, and I-BEST continued to do that. Instructors like Mrs. (Julianne) Wiles, Mrs. (Robin) Long, and Mrs. (Melinda) Hoover impacted my life in a tremendous way. They wrote reference letters for me when I applied for the job at Adult Education. Without everyone’s help, I wouldn’t have thought college was possible,” she said.
“It’s like a dream come true. I take what I’ve learned and help students at Adult Ed over the hurdles, just like my teachers helped me,” she added. “This is an ideal job for me – I apply the skills I learn in class, and I can be a positive influence on other students. I tell students every day what this has done for me and hope I influence them in a positive way. I want people to know that there’s more than minimum-wage jobs out there for them.”
In addition to I-BEST funding, she received the Donald McPhail and Abney Foundation scholarships and is attending Tri-County debt free. She maintains a 4.0 GPA, is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as well as the National Society of Leadership and Success
“I want to continue to be an example of what can happen when a person decides to change her mindset, applies herself consistently, and believes in herself. Adult Ed and Tri-County helped me to realize that I am able, I can do it, and I will make it. I want to graduate and go on and do more. My mom would be so proud. I wish she could see me now.”