Garfield Campus Diploma Program Offers Pathway to Success

Corinna Scott

It’s Tuesday afternoon in room 116 and the lab bustles with activity at the Garfield campus. Students gather at computer stations around the classroom and ask tutors for help while they work on assignments.

This lab houses the GED program where students come to earn their high school equivalency diplomas. Students from all walks of life congregate here, from single mothers, to high school students who may be retaking classes or taking extra classes, to those students who can barely read or write.

Beginning as a classroom in a bungalow, it was called “the shoebox” by Jan Young, who hired Jane DiLucchio to be in charge of the program.”

From there it has grown into the program it is today: the GED or “The Pathways to Success” program as it is also called.

Ken Downie is working on earning his GED so that he can attend an Oxford Seminars course in order to teach English in Japan where his wife Takako and three children are now living.

After having dropped out of high school in the 11th grade due to a serious leg injury, Downie went to work for his father’s termite company. Later, when he earned his contractor’s license, his father hosted a family from Japan and that is when he met Takako. He went to Japan to ask her father for her hand in marriage and they had two weddings, one Japanese and the other European-style.

He plans to see his family again in July. He says he misses them very much.

“I’ve wanted to come back and get my GED and took it upon myself to walk through that door and get the GED repeated. I knew there would be computers, books and teachers, but I had no idea there would be so many smiles and so many kind people,” Downie said.

Ruth Akins spoke at a board of trustees meeting in March on behalf of DiLucchio who had guided her through earning her diploma. She hadn’t graduated from the 10th grade, but decided to attend the Garfield Campus and earned her diploma at the age of 80.

“Sometimes I thought I’d just better quit. I just can’t go on with this, but I did with Jane’s guidance. It was a wonderful day. So, anyway sorry I didn’t go on any further, but I just couldn’t.” she said.

“We’ll use Ruth as a motivation to the students who come in and say when they’re 24 years old ‘I am too old to get my GED.’ This is our living legend. Learning is a life long activity,” said DiLucchio

“I’m 84 years old and I’m just glad I got through it,” said Akins.

Kristy Nielsen is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department who works in community relations. When she was told by a Crescenta Valley High School counselor that she was socially unacceptable she decided to leave school. Nielsen did not explain what her counselor had meant, but the lack of administrative support was not limited to just that area, she said.

“I basically took that as my ticket out and I went on about life. I got a job in the grocery business, but I wanted a job in the Los Angles Police Department. In order to do that you had to have a high school diploma or GED.

“Jane (DiLucchio) basically saw me through it and the motivation here was wonderful. I was so failed by the administrators in high school. I want to thank Jane and the program for being here,” Nielsen said.

Robert Yount, who has a master’s degree in education, grew up in what he considers a dysfunctional home and was raised by his grandparents, a family of the Depression who valued work over education. He said his grandmother told him don’t worry about work, they’ll always need someone to dig ditches and pump gas.

“By the time I was 14, I’d come to find out they don’t pump gas anymore,” Yount said.
After four years of working in retail he came to the campus and began working on his GED.

Yount earned his GED and then went on to obtain his degree in education at the University of La VerneHe now teaches high school in Los Angeles.

Though they may not share the same motivation for an education, have the same background, age group or in some cases even live in the same city all of these students share the common thread of wanting this diploma in some form or another.

Those who want to find out more about this program can reach the center at (818) 240-1000 ext. 5686 or 5047.