More Than 30 National External Diploma Program Recipients Celebrated in West Hartford

From left: Andrew Tykiewicz, Xiao Ping Fan, Meghan Hodgdon, Ruth Smallwood, Tania Guerra, Catherine Mukemwema, Abigail Negron, Pamela Pernal, Executive Director of Equity Advancement Roszena Haskins and Interim Superintendent of Schools Andrew Morrow, Interim Superintendent of West Hartford Public Schools. Courtesy photo

West Hartford Adult Education held a graduation ceremony on Jan. 19 for those who have completed the National External Diploma Program over the past several years.

Ruth Smallwood, who completed the NEDP during COVID, tells her story to her fellow graduates and their families. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

It took some students several years to complete the coursework, and due to COVID-19 some had to wait even longer to be recognized, but on Jan. 19, 2023, a ceremony was held at West Hartford Town Hall honoring the 33 students who have graduated from the National External Diploma Program (NEDP) since March 2020.

NEDP is not the same as earning a GED (General Educational Development), but rather is a diploma indicating that the recipient is a graduate of West Hartford Public Schools. According to Caren Dickman, Adult Education program facilitator, the NEDP “is a rigorous, nationally recognized high school diploma option for people with full-time schedules. Ninety percent of graduates nationwide complete and pursue their career and/or academic goals for employment/training and/or attending college. The program includes tasks for in-demand career and lifelong experiences in financial, health, civic, geography, history, science, and 21st century workplace literacy.”

Executive Director of Equity Advancement Roszena Haskins congratulates NEDP graduates. Courtesy photo

Program Director Andrew Tyskiewicz, Executive Director of Equity Advancement Roszena Haskins, NEDP Teacher Pamela Pernal, and Interim Superintendent of Schools Andy Morrow attended the graduation, and offered congratulations. 

Shereita Marie McKenzie, a June 2022 graduate, was scheduled to be the student teacher but at the last minute could not attend due to a family emergency, Pernal said. “Shereita is notable because of her persistence. It took her four years to complete the NEDP Program due to family and work responsibilities. Most other students complete it in one to two years,” Pernal said. “She started the program in 2018, had a child and started again. She has worked at CVS for many years to support her family. Now that she has her diploma she will train as a pharmacy technician at her store. She also encouraged her coworkers to attend adult education classes.”

Pernal said that Ruth Smallwood stepped as student speaker and shared her story. 

Smallwood was working as a CNA for a private practice company when she enrolled in NEDP. “When she got her diploma she got a better paying CNA position at The Hospital for Special Care and is now ready to buy her first home,” Pernal said. “She passed along her love of the medical field to her daughter, who is currently a nurse.”

Dickman said that there were 29 students who completed the NEDP during the pandemic (between March 2020 and December 2021) and were unable to be publicly recognized until this January’s graduation ceremony. Four of the students are recent graduates, having completed their coursework between March and November 2022.

NEDP teacher Pamela Pernal describes the program and what it takes to complete it. Courtesy photo

Not all who completed NEDP were able to attend the ceremony due to work schedules or other commitments, Dickman said.

NEDP is a web-based program that can be started at any time. Details about enrollment and more about the curriculum can be found on the West Hartford Public Schools website.

Andrew Tyskiewicz, director of West Hartford Adult Education, welcomes the NEDP graduates and their families. Courtesy photo

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