News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 14, 2014

‘A second chance’: 47 students return to complete High School Equivalency program

TERRE HAUTE — Tina Compton and Mary Fagg were both young when they decided to quit school. But now, in their 40s, they have been given “a second chance at life.”

Compton and Fagg were two of the 47 individuals who walked across the Woodrow Wilson Middle School auditorium stage Wednesday night during the Vigo County School Corp. High School Equivalency Graduation.

“For many of our graduates, the HSE has been a second chance at life, a chance to better themselves and provide for their families,” Jeff Clutter, director of the adult education program for the Vigo County School Corp., said at the ceremony. “For whatever reason, they were not able to complete high school, but by earning their High School Equivalency Diploma, they have opened doors to opportunities they would not have had without it.”

Compton and Fagg, who described themselves as “best friends” and “like sisters,” were all smiles as they hugged on stage to congratulate each other for their accomplishments, decades in the making.

“It’s amazing. I can’t put it into words,” Fagg said emotionally when asked about how she felt upon receiving the diploma.

Fagg was 16 when she decided to quit school, a time when “I was going around with the wrong crowd.”

Now 46, she decided to get her diploma to fulfill a promise she made to her father before he passed away two years ago. Her father, Fagg said, told her “to reach for the stars and not to stop.”

She also wanted to show her two daughters that she can do it.

“They are my inspiration,” she said before the ceremony, as tears fell from her eyes.

But she didn’t do it alone.

Compton and Fagg, who also work together, went through the HSE process together. They studied together; attended classes together, took the test together; and on Wednesday, graduated together.

“We were there for each other,” which made the process easier, Compton said. The two also expressed gratitude for the support of their families and employer.

Also at the ceremony to cheer and applaud Compton and Fagg were their children and “grandbabies.” Compton said she also drew inspiration from her four children, one of which is a 2-year-old. She also wanted to set a good example.

“I want to let her know that I did get [my diploma] and she should [also] go ahead and get hers,” Compton said.

Both best friends are looking forward to further study and better careers.

Families and friends packed the auditorium for the graduation ceremony, which included speeches from four of the graduates and VCSC Superintendent Dan Tanoos, who praised the graduates’ perseverance and hardwork.

One of the speeches was delivered by Sarah Elder, a graduate.  

“For some of us, this is stepping stone to get a better job; for others this is going to be used to go to college,” Elder said.

“For me, I wanted to be able to tell my children that I did go back to class and I did finish and get my GED,” she told the attendees.

In the past year, 190 people from the community have passed the HSE exam, and 47 of those individuals participated in the graduation, Clutter said. The average age for this year’s graduating class was 25.

The Vigo County School Corp.’s Adult Education program offers free classes to help individuals prepare for the High School Equivalency exam. It offers 18 classes at 11 locations throughout Vigo County and serves more than 600 students per year, he added.

To the graduates, it was a second chance.

“For a while it seemed as though keeping up with the daily responsibilities of motherhood and being a wife were all that I could take on and that there was no possibility of ever returning to school,” Elder said in her speech.

“But then, thanks to the encouragement and motivation of my husband and a good friend, I became open to the possibility of a second chance.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or


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