Overcoming obstacles, Lawrence school district’s adult education graduates start new chapter in life

photo by: Jackson Barton

From left, Haley Hill, Kristee Gage and Anthony Bennett celebrate Bennett's GED at Billy Mills Middle School on June 6, 2019.

Ifa Nassor had nothing left and no family to turn to when her husband divorced her two years ago. Between raising her son, who is now 3 years old, and juggling two full-time jobs, she completed her GED by taking classes at the Adult Learning Center.

“The day that I passed the last test, I cried really loud,” Nassor said. “It wasn’t easy.”

The Lawrence school district honored Nassor and 116 other graduates of its Adult Learning Center and Diploma Completion Program at a ceremony Thursday night in the Billy Mills Middle School auditorium.

photo by: Jackson Barton

GED recipient Ifa Nassor delivers a speech to fellow graduates and the audience in the Billy Mills Middle School auditorium on June 6, 2019.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis opened the ceremony with a personal story to the graduates about his own struggles to finish his university studies and how he had to drop out initially amid failing grades and missing financial aid.

“I could have easily given up,” Lewis said. “But I overcame those odds, just as you did.”

Nassor told the Journal-World she moved to the United States from Tanzania to satisfy her parents by marrying a man she had never met. When she started taking classes in English as a second language and working outside of the household, her husband and his mother began to verbally abuse her.

“They were yelling at my son; they didn’t care about me anymore,” Nassor said. “They did not want me to work, they did not want me to go to school.”

But Nassor stood firm. When she finished her ESL program and enrolled in the Lawrence district’s adult education program, her husband divorced her. Initially, she had no money and nowhere for her and her son to stay. She said her son is the reason she kept pursuing her GED.

“He’s the one who talks to me,” Nassor said. “If I cry, he comes and wipes my tears (and says) ‘Mama, don’t cry.'”

Nassor said she does not want her son to live like she had to. She plans on pursuing medical school in the future.

At the ceremony, the graduating class took a moment to remember math teacher Anna Lee Dillehay, who died of cancer on April 2.

Anthony Bennett, who graduated with a GED, struggled with recovery from drug abuse while pursuing his diploma. He said Dillehay never gave up on him and was more than a math teacher.

“I had been in and out of homes, so it was hard to find someone to talk to,” Bennett said. “She was just like family and that’s what made it so easy to talk to her.”

Diploma in hand, Bennett said he plans to seek a job at Hallmark.

“I’ve heard it’s a really good job,” Bennett said. “You have to have your high school diploma or GED.”

photo by: Jackson Barton

Anthony Bennett and his fiancee Kristie Gage celebrate after Bennett’s graduation ceremony at Billy Mills Middle School on June 6, 2019.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Superintendent Anthony Lewis congratulates GED recipient Ifa Nassor in the Billy Mills Middle School auditorium on June 6, 2019.


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