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Updated 10:00 AM September 12, 2005




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UMHS program opens doors to education

The first time Diane Frazier attempted to finish the high school diploma she never completed, the Eagles were riding high on their new album, "Hotel California," and moviegoers were catching Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky." The year was 1976.
Surrounded by family, Diane Frazier displays her diploma and her "I WILL Pass" award during a June 8 ceremony at the U-M Hospital. Frazier took part in the U-M Health System English as a Second Language/General Educational Development program to earn her high-school diploma. She since has been promoted to a new position at the hospital. (Photo by Jessica SoulLiere)

As a young, single mother in Detroit, life got in the way and she never finished the program—but she never stopped thinking about it, either. Thirty years later, Frazier went from thinking to achieving. Through the Hospitals and Health Centers English as a Second Language (ESL)/General Education Development (GED) program, Frazier passed her GED tests and graduated earlier this summer.

"This has been so good for me. I'm more confident, uplifted and happy," Frazier says. "Now I have something in common with my son who is 27 and has a degree in psychology—we talk about my plans to go to college and he gives me advice. My husband is so proud of me."

Three years ago, Frazier took a job in U-M's Laundry Services—a good job, but not her dream job. The road to the right career was right in front of her—literally.

The U-M Health System (UMHS) Support Services Office of Leadership and Staff Development had posted a flier advertising a pilot GED program near Frazier's break spot. "It took months of me staring at that flier during every break, hearing my head say 'you should do this' before I finally went to my supervisor to ask about the program," Frazier says. "She gave me Steve's number."

"Steve" is Steve Raymond, director of leadership and staff development for Support Services. Raymond, along with Ellen Fisher, a teacher with 30 years of experience in Ann Arbor Public Schools Adult Education, coordinate the ESL/GED program—free to all UMHS staff members.

ESL students of all levels of proficiency learn the fundamentals of the English language to increase their communication skills and confidence in their abilities as English speakers. Staff members who want to obtain a high school diploma take the GED high school equivalency-testing program.

Frazier received her GED certification after studying over parts of two semesters. She began taking classes after work, starting with science, social studies, reading and writing. Things were going well until life got in the way—again.

"I got sick, and that was hard for a while. But what really threw me off was when my father became severely ill and passed away," she says. "That was a really hard time for me and my family, and I didn't want to give up, but I got really behind in my math."

Frazier took the final math test in April and waited. She didn't think she had to worry since she had passed the previous four tests.

"Ellen told me she had some bad news—I didn't pass the test. My heart just went into my throat," she says. "I was worried that I would have to take another year to get my GED, and I told Ellen 'I'm not coming back next year.'"

Frazier committed herself to finishing the final test in math by taking books home and studying hard during the next three weeks.

When she walked out of the testing center May 31, Frazier knew she had passed. "I got a call two days before graduation from Ellen, but I already knew," she says, smiling. "I had already bought my cap and gown for the ceremony at Stone School."

Since the ceremony in June, Frazier has been promoted to patient transporter II, something she attributes to getting her GED, and to her determination.

"You should never be embarrassed about bettering yourself. Getting an education paves the way for your future—to be better in life," Frazier says. "I'm 48; now I'm going to go to college."

Frazier plans to pursue an associate's degree in health sciences at Washtenaw Community College.

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