As a teenager, Vanessa Stamatakos experienced some challenges often voiced by those who leave high school before completing graduation requirements. She had to help support her family and as a result, she missed school and wasn’t able to keep pace with her class requirements. She dropped out in 2012 at the age of 18.
Eight years later in the spring of 2020, Vanessa was working at an assisted living community. Covid-19 took a toll on the entire world but congregate living settings where vulnerable people live bore a particularly heavy burden. As a result, Vanessa became unemployed.
“I always wanted to go back to school but never felt I had the time,” Vanessa said but she made a decision when the pandemic interrupted her routine. “I enrolled in the Bridge program at the Community College of Rhode Island at the end of August 2020. This program allowed me to study for my GED® exam by attending classes in-person and online.”
Shortly before the end of September, Adult Education Facilitator, Jane Reggio offered Vanessa and some other committed students the opportunity to study using FastForward, a comprehensive online GED® prep course created and distributed by KET.
“Rhode Island PBS through an agreement with KET, gave adult educators an opportunity to pilot FastForward with our students and I reached out to learners who could commit to work in the program consistently and independently. Vanessa was one of those students,” explained Ms. Reggio.
After introducing FastForward to potential users via a Zoom presentation, Ms. Reggio monitored the amount of time students spent completing the coursework, offered them supplemental support and encouraged them. “This program is not for everyone but for those with goals in mind, commitment, self-motivation and determination, it is wonderful. It had everything Vanessa needed, and she had the personal characteristics she needed to be successful with it. I was simply her cheerleader.”
Vanessa commented that the opportunity was very enticing to her as she likes to work at her own pace. “I was putting in several hours, actually about four hours each day, working on one subject at a time,” explained Vanessa. “FastForward was great for me because I had a pretest in each subject which showed me what I did well on and what I needed work on. I did all of the practice tests, watched all the videos and did all the work for each subject. I also completed post-tests which showed me what I missed and suggested other practice and lessons for me. Everything I needed to be successful was in the course program but I did appreciate the encouragement from Ms. Reggio.”
“We know that most students do much better with collaboration and accountability with adult educators. FastForward is constructed with this in mind and provides a comprehensive student/classroom management system for adult education professionals to access student progress, grades, reports, additional assignments and more,” explained Dr. Sarah Wilkins, Director of Adult Education at KET.
In just four short months, Vanessa completed all four GED® test subjects and passed to earn her high school equivalency credential. “I don’t think I could have passed without KET’s FastForward,” Vanessa said, “it just had everything I needed included.”
Today, just six months after becoming unemployed from her assisted living job due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Vanessa is enrolled as a full-time college student. Talk about FastFowarding! She is currently completing general studies but hopes to work in the communications and media field eventually, maybe in the film production industry.
“Vanessa was a very motivated student and it showed early on. She deserves to have her story told.” commented Ms. Reggio. “Other students have also been successful during the pilot program and this has led the state to purchase the FastForward program to expand access for more students. I have no doubt we will have even more Vanessa success stories as a result of this program.”
KET would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Vanessa, Ms. Reggio and the staff at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Bridge program and Rhode Island PBS. If you know someone who could benefit from a high school equivalency credential via online learning or if you would like to know more about utilizing FastForward to support adult learners, find out more at KET.org/FastForward.