PLEASANT GAP — Timothy Nyman took a break from school — for a few decades.
The Mill Hall resident, 54, dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. But after having trouble getting a respectable job, he sought his General Education Development degree.
Tuesday night, he took a step across a stage toward better opportunities.
Nyman was one of 27 students, ranging from a 17-year-old to those in their 50s, who celebrated a milestone Tuesday night by graduating at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.
With the message, “If at first if you don’t succeed, try, try again,” J. Hugh Dwyer, executive director at Central Intermediate Unit No. 10 school, spoke to the graduates about perseverance.
Students from Centre, Clearfield and Clinton counties participated in the program, said James Hynes, lead project facilitator for the Development Center for Adults of Central Intermediate Unit No. 10.
This year, the program changed after the state GED testing service approached business leaders to get input on the relative value of a GED certification compared with high school diplomas or no degree at all.
Hynes said the former GED program had little value for business leaders, and the program “changed drastically.”
It now combines a language arts and reading/writing class with higher standards of critical thinking, reading and writing responses.
There was formerly only a reading and writing comprehension test with fewer standards, Hynes said.
Science and social studies switched from a reading comprehension evaluation in the subjects to having education-based testing on the background of science and history — topics now taught more thoroughly in the class.
“When they hear a term, we want them to know what it means,” Hynes said.
The math classes also changed. Hynes said the program evolved from fractions, decimals and percentages to more advanced algebra.
A program that took about three weeks to three months now takes an individual three to nine months to complete, Hynes said.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s not that easy for them and they have to work hard at it,” Hynes said.
On the other hand, the hard work should pay off.
“This is new, so we don’t have enough statistics to say if it works,” Hynes said. “It should be beneficial for employers looking to hire and those students looking for work because the level is higher.”
Armed with his GED certification, Nyman has high hopes for his prospects.
“You get a little more leverage with this,” he said.
Fellow graduates Jamie Updyke, 34, of DuBois, and Dawn Wolford, 41, of Milesburg, said they were “proud” to finally be walking the stage.
It took Wolford more than a year to complete the program.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Wolford said. “I really feel like I learned more this time around than I did back then.”
“It really means everything to me,” Updyke added.
She spent a year in the program and will continue her education in phlebotomy at Lock Haven University-Clearfield campus.
A GED graduation is held at CPI each year, Hynes said. In partnership with CPI, the Development Center for Adults works with GED students on goals whether it’s to work or seek higher education.
“It’s true that some people do get lazy because they drop out of high school because they don’t want to deal, and people struggle with basic skills like reading and math and never really took a formal science or social studies class,” Hynes said.
“For them to commit in the first place is impressive, and we take it with a grain of salt when they come in because, historically, we lose a lot of people up front, but those who hold out and work and plug away at it find success.”
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.