Columbia’s Community Impact Helps Record Number of Adults Earn High School Equivalency Diplomas

February 03, 2021

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Department of Education canceled in-person assessments for those seeking a high school equivalency degree, leaving countless students in Upper Manhattan with few options to earn their diploma. 

Community Impact at Columbia University (CI), a non-profit dedicated to serving disadvantaged people in Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Washington Heights, acted quickly to meet this need by expanding its free High School Equivalency Program. CI modified the program this past summer, allowing participants to enroll in courses requiring more intensive assistance and to complete the program online.

Community Impact Student Fawziya Dollah

“When I saw an email from Community Impact saying they can help me get my high school equivalency diploma, I was overwhelmed with this news!” said student Fawziya Dollah.Now I can go to college to pursue my nursing career.”

More than 150 local residents that have attended the program last summer received their equivalency diploma. Participants are now eligible for new job opportunities and can further their education by enrolling in college. Interest in the program continues to build and Community Impact now has a waiting list of more than 300 people.  

“I am so proud that I got into this program. The teachers were so helpful and friendly, assisting me with everything I needed to complete the program and get my diploma,” said program graduate Jennifer Mejia,. “I recommend it to those who truly want a high school diploma to move forward with their lives.” 

For more than 25 years, Community Impact has offered its High School Equivalency Program to the local community. Each semester it runs ten classes on Columbia’s campus that are taught by work study students and volunteers from the University, including students, faculty, and administrators as well as local residents. 

“Our students have taken full advantage of the new program, dedicating themselves to learning the material and supporting one another in the process,” said Michael Cusack, a Teachers College Work Study Student. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program and work with such an amazing group of students.”

As a result of the program’s success, CI has received high praise in its annual review from the NYS Department of Education.

“We are very proud of our adult program participants. Community Impact’s TASC program continues to be a leader in adult education in New York City,” said Olger Twyner, executive director of Community Impact. “I’m immensely grateful for program staff and community partners whose nimble efforts have helped us to quickly adapt to changes brought about because of the pandemic.”