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2023 - Career Prep: Free services help motivated adult learner thrive

Tags: Academics | Accomplishment | Student Profile | Student Resources
Published 12/04/2023
State of Illinois High School Diploma graduate Crisanta Mora stands in front of the Education Work Center (EWC)

State of Illinois High School Diploma graduate Crisanta Mora stands in front of the Education Work Center (EWC)

One night, while scrolling through Facebook, Crisanta Mora saw an ad that read ‘Free GED Classes at Elgin Community College.’ Mora, who immigrated to the United States without a high school education, spent 15 years working long hours in manufacturing, splitting shifts with her husband to ensure someone was always home with their children. She knew her high school diploma was the key to advancing her career, and the ad gave her the spark to start.

A few weeks later, Mora visited the Education and Work Center (EWC) in Hanover Park. The EWC provides comprehensive classes in adult basic education, English as a second language, and career development assistance. The center serves an area with a high immigrant population and residents facing language, transportation, childcare, and financial barriers.

“The EWC is a holistic experience for students,” said Monika Gadek-Stephan, senior director of the EWC. “Classes are free, textbooks and materials are available on-site, as are Chromebooks or computers for completing assignments.” ECC and Harper College faculty members teach students through daytime and evening classes, and transitions coordinators help students move on to higher education or career training at ECC or Harper College.

“At the EWC, everyone made me feel at home,” said Mora. She credits instructor Laura Azcoitia for motivating her to continue. “She told me, ‘You can do it — it’s never too late to continue your education,’ and that gave me the confidence to finish my diploma at 38 years old.” The best part of achieving her goal was that she did it alongside her 18-year-old son. In May, Mora graduated with her State of Illinois High School Diploma and attended her son’s high school graduation three days later.

Next, Mora plans to enroll in the new medical assisting program at ECC’s Spartan Drive Campus. “I am so proud to say I am a high school graduate, but at the same time, my experiences with the EWC motivated me to continue my education.” She informs everyone she meets about the resources available at the EWC, telling them, “I assure you, you will always find the help and motivation you need to accomplish your goals; just take that first step.”

Note: EWC is a partnership among Elgin Community College, Harper College, the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the Village of Hanover Park, and the state of Illinois.


Read the entire fall 2023 issue of Impact magazine online here.