The Omega School Inc. Summer 2012 GED/HSED Commencement Ceremony was held Thursday, June 21, in the auditorium of Madison Memorial High School.
Omega School is an alternative, adult basic education and diploma completion program that prepares students who missed out on a high school diploma a chance to earn their GED through its alternative, one-on-one approach to learning.
Oscar Mireles, executive director/principal of Omega School, has been running the program for 18 years. “In the end, the students have to take that leap of faith… I know we — myself and the staff — see the students learning. For me, every time they come to school and every time they make a little progress, it just inspires me to do more,” Mireles said. “I’m here because I see the hard work that you do as students. I thank you for keeping me excited to do this job after 18 years.
“One of the things that I have learned is that it is never just one graduate — a lot of our graduates are fortunate enough to have children, fortunate to have brothers and sisters, fortunate to have parents and grandparents that care about them,” Mireles said. “When they are here to celebrate their graduation, it is great to see their families here, as well.”
Omega School has been preparing students for the GED tests for 40 years now. The service is free to the students and the school is supported by city of Madison funds for the adult students, the Dane County Sheriff‘s Department for its work in the jail, and school district funds for students from their respective districts.
“Congratulations to all of you. You have taken a very important step and there is no more important step to take than to earn a degree,” MMSD School Board Member James Howard told the crowd.
Student speakers Jesse Savage, Amber Meyers, Chelsey Scheib, and Lexus Johnson took turns telling personal stories of their Omega School journey.
“It was hard but I had a lot of people pushing me,” Johnson said. “My teachers and my friends believed in me. I really appreciate what everybody at Omega did to help get me through the program.”
“After realizing some success with this program, I’ve come to realize that success is more than a bank account or a nice car,” Savage said. “For me, it was being able to put a smile on my friend’s face for something as simple as me achieving something when I put 100 percent of my heart and mind into it. Congratulations to the Class of 2012.”
Former Omega graduate Jalateefa Joe-Myers was the guest speaker. “Know who you are. You need to be able to answer that question,” Joe-Myers said. “What do you want out of life and where do you see yourself? I’m asking you a bigger question: Who are you?
“I was always told, ‘Jalateefa, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything,’” she added. “When I heard that, I thought about it and said to myself that I had better stand for something. When you know yourself and you bring your whole self to whatever you do and you have great expectations, you will undoubtedly find success.”
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi talked about the struggles he had as a youngster as he dropped out of high school and the instrumental place that Omega School played in his life to put him on the right track.
“At Omega, I wasn’t judged and I wasn’t lectured,” he said. “They believed in me and they gave me a chance to turn my life around. The only reason I was able to walk down that path of turning my life around was because people took a chance on me. People I never met made investments that were necessary to give me that second chance and that second chance paid off.”
Steve Goldberg, executive director of CUNA Mutual Group Foundation, presented the CUNA Mutual Group’s Growing in the Right Direction Scholarship to Joshua Downs. Each year CUNA Mutual provides a $1,000 college scholarship to a graduating high school senior in each of the high schools in Dane County including Omega School.
Joe, Mary, and David Sensenbrenner were presented with an MMSD Omega School Partnership Award. Pat Schramm also received a Partnership Award.
Keynote speaker Justice Castaneda said that he was once a high school student with a 1.46 grade-point average (GPA) but now is a student at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“You are the people who are going to change this city, change this state. This is our town. Everybody is looking at us around the world for a show,” he said. “So, we can just sit back and do nothing; or we can give them a show. We need you to go out and be the best that each and every one of you can be. Congratulations to all of you. Let’s start getting out there and start banging this stuff out.”
The event concluded with Mireles presenting the graduates with their GED/HSED (General Education Development/High School Equivalency Diploma) certificates. Mireles introduced each of the graduates in Omega School and praised each student’s good qualities, occasionally recalling a trial or difficulty a particular student had, and invited them on stage one by one to the handshakes and embraces of staff members standing behind him.
A reception followed in the Madison Memorial High School Cafeteria.
To learn more about Omega School, call the school at 256-4650 or visit www.omegaschool.org