Briya high school graduates celebrate their achievements

“Getting my diploma was challenging, but I did not give up,” Alba Hernandez said, addressing her fellow Briya high school graduates and their guests during a ceremony this June. “I felt frustrated and like I couldn’t do it, but at the same time, I knew I had to. No matter what the barriers were, my goal was to get my diploma, and I am so happy to finally graduate.”

Five students earned their high school diploma through Briya’s National External Diploma Program (NEDP) in spring 2017, and they celebrated with faculty, family, and friends during a graduation ceremony. The NEDP, which Briya offers to students in the most advanced English level of its Two-Generation Program, is specifically designed to meet the needs of adult learners.

Alba Hernandez, 2017 NEDP graduate

“I decided to enter the NEDP because in my country, Guatemala, I couldn’t finish high school,” Hernandez said in her speech. “And I learned many things in NEDP, including improving my reading and writing, as well as practical things that help me in my everyday life.”

Hernandez shared that for her, one of the most relevant topics turned out to be learning about diabetes in the health unit of the program. Months later she was diagnosed with diabetes herself, and she felt much more confident in her understanding of the illness and its treatment because of what she had learned through the NEDP.

During the ceremony, students each received a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” a gesture to celebrate their hard work and bright futures, as well as to honor the importance of their young children and families. Lenora Robinson Mills, COO of the DC Public Charter School Board, then officially conferred the diplomas on the graduates.

Judy Kittleson, Briya’s NEDP Coordinator, congratulated the students on the dedication and perseverance they showed as they balanced their studies and the rest of their lives.

“These students have demonstrated the competencies required for the NEDP,” she said, “but they’ve also demonstrated that they are invested in their children’s schools, in their work, in the lives of their families, and in their communities. You all should be very proud of these graduates and what they have accomplished. Thank you, graduates, and congratulations.”

NPR features Briya’s legal assistance for immigrant students

Briya’s efforts to provide immigration legal services for students and their families, made possible through a grant awarded by DC mayor Muriel Bowser in March 2017, are highlighted in a story by NPR.

Through the grant, Briya is able to offer students free individual legal consultations, on-site Know Your Rights fairs, and free legal representation.

“‘Our students have been coming to us, and many of our students are really fearful of what’s happening on the national level as far as immigration policies, and so this was a way of being able to help our students know what their rights are, and to provide direct services to families,’” Christie McKay, Briya’s executive director, says in the story.

“‘If our families are feeling like it’s not safe to come out of their homes, they won’t be able to come to school,’” she said.

Read and listen to the story here.