Student Overcomes Adversity

Justine’s mom wanted her to earn a diploma- she was Justine’s biggest supporter and best friend.

Justine was working toward earning her HSED in the 5.09 program, an option from the state of Wisconsin that allows a student to earn a high school diploma without taking the timed tests. Instead, students work through each competency in the curriculum at their own pace. There are no deadlines or due dates.

Justine was not in good health. She experienced many health concerns and underwent a surgery during the pandemic that did not work. It was very frustrating to have to go through doctor visits and surgery without a support system and then to receive no relief from her pain felt overwhelming. There were extra hoops to jump through because of COVID. Family had to drop her and leave.

Justine worked in a medical health facility and lost her job during the pandemic. Everything was so much harder without an income. Trying to find a job in pandemic circumstances was very difficult.

Her mom had been sick for awhile and passed away as the fall semester was beginning. She was worried she would not be able to finish her goal of earning her diploma. Then her stepdad passed away unexpectedly, too! Justine was devastated! How would she go on without her mom? She was the one that supported Justine the most. It seemed like an impossibility. She was thrown into a world of estates and moving her family’s belonging while mourning her losses. It was difficult to mourn her family properly with social gathering restrictions and everyone so fearful of being in groups.

But Justine came to class whenever she could even if she wasn’t feeling well. She was also a role model to other students. She was kind to them and helped them with their problems and even their homework. They looked up to her. She kept trudging forward, motivated by the knowledge her mother wanted her to take this step. She was doing it in her mother’s memory, no matter how difficult it was.

Justine graduated last month. When her instructor told her she was done, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe she had made her dream come true. She had been trudging for so long she lost site of where she was on the journey. It was bittersweet without her mom. She couldn’t share in person the joy of her achievement but she knew she honored her mother by graduating.

Next Thursday, Justine will attend her graduation ceremony. Her children and her boyfriend, Mike, will be watching the event live-streamed. Just like during the rest of her journey, she will walk the last bit by herself. But everyone who loves Justine will be watching and celebrating her success with her, including her mom! She is a graduation speaker at this year’s ceremony. She will dedicate her speech to her mom, telling her mom, “This one’s for you!”

If you, or someone you know, is interested in this alternative to earning a GED or HSED, visit for more information.

Written by Annette Meihack