Earning a GED, and Hope

The Detroit News
NEAL RUBIN

Anna Koskiewicz wants to be a psychologist and run an animal shelter and open an international buffet.

She's at that point a lot of kids reach about the time they learn to drive, when the world is a smorgasbord of possibilities and the options are so inviting they want to try them all.

She's different, though. She's 26, and she knows from gritty experience that there are more closed doors than open ones. But she has two things going for her now that she never had before:

A GED, and hope.

She gives thanks for both to the Mercy Education Project, a nonprofit founded by the Sisters of Mercy almost 20 years ago to help low-income women make up for the circumstances or mistakes that can make a simple middle-class existence an impossible dream.

The MEP operates out of a former warehouse in Corktown with a small staff that includes a 4-foot-10 nun, a swarm of volunteers that includes a French-speaking Cameroonian math instructor, and a list of programs that includes literacy training, career exploration and making up for the rash educational decisions of teenagers.

A general educational development certificate might seem like something you settle for, not aspire to, but only until you try getting by without one in an increasingly demanding world.

Koskiewicz graduated in June, and she and her 10 classmates were proud to march to "Pomp and Circumstance."

"While you and I were learning our multiplication tables in fourth grade," says Sister Maureen Mulcrone, RSM, "they were being molested at home, or their parents couldn't read."

Past results, future successes

Mulcrone is a former teacher and hospital administrator who started at MEP as a volunteer and wound up the marketing and development director and keeper of success stories.

She can tell you about Shimeka Williams, who graduated last year, found a job, earned a few promotions and came in last month to pay for her younger sister's royal blue cap and gown: "She must have said three times, 'I have Blue Cross!'"

Or about Koskiewicz, from Hamtramck, who's already started at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The GED is made up of separate tests in math, English, science, social studies and writing. Many MEP clients need skills upgrades before they can even begin GED training; the average time from start to celebration is 18 to 24 months.

Koskiewicz blew through in three months — less time than she stuck around for her sophomore year in Sterling Heights.

The daughter of Polish immigrants, she says she was harassed back then about her weight, her glasses and her heritage. Dropping out and drinking heavily were easier than persevering.

Functional when she was drinking — if not when she was abusing painkillers — she worked steadily but made no real progress, dropping out of two earlier programs that seemed too much like high school. A probation officer finally sent her to MEP, where she thrived in "a more serious environment, where they're cheering for you."

"I was kind of in darkness for 10 years," she says, but now she's seen the GED results and the light. "No one's going to stop me this time," she promises — not even herself.

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Bulletin Board

Here are some recent comments from community members, volunteers, students and others who are commenting on Mercy Education Project.

 

"Education is an opportunity and can be transformational for our most vulnerable communities; especially those, like us, working tirelessly in search of the American Dream. Programs like Mercy Education Project have successfully removed those barriers for many and have educated our women and girls and is transforming their lives."

JoAnn Chávez, Vice President Legal & Chief Tax Officer
DTE Energy, August 2017

 

"….Literacy is a fundamental right and an essential building block for a productive life. Increasing adult literacy also ensures more parents can be engaged in their children’s education, ,making this a cause  critical to helping families break the cycle of poverty. Thank you to Mercy Education Project for their tireless efforts to ensure everyone has an opportunity to learn to read. Together, I know we are making a difference.”

Warren C. Evans, Wayne County Executive
Wayne County, December 2016