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“It just opens so many doors.” Omega School to host winter graduation ceremony tonight

Omega School students celebrate at a previous Omega School graduation ceremony.

Many students do not graduate from high school in four years due to a variety of reasons and circumstances that are sometimes beyond their control. There are other students who must once again reaffirm their credentials due to relocation or records destruction. For the past 50 years, Omega School has helped thousands of young people get a high school diploma. And twice a year — in the summer and the winter — they host a graduation ceremony to celebrate those success stories.

Tonight, those success stories will be celebrated as 22 students will receive their GED/HSED credentials from Omega School at their Winter Commencement Ceremony, which will be held at the Madison College Goodman South Madison Campus, 2429 Perry Street. Omega School is inviting the greater community to come and celebrate the accomplishments of its Winter Class of 2023 at a program that will start at 6 p.m.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work each student accomplished by investing in themselves,” says Oscar Mireles, the executive director and principal of Omega School. “For many GED students, without the additional support of friends and family, this goal of a high school credential would not have been possible. ”

“I think coming out of the pandemic, there’s a lot of things that are opening up and I think our students are kind of seeing that and looking at their opportunities,” Mireles adds. “Without a diploma, I think they see how options are limited. Whereas, a number of our students are talking about an apprenticeship and some are thinking about going to Madison College, our partner.”

Mireles has been working all year with his staff, many dedicated volunteers, and a supporting network that includes several foundations in the Madison area, to help make the idea of returning to school and passing the GED or HSED exams into a reality for students.

Many of his students that will be celebrated tonight have shown tremendous peserverance having faced some tough circumstances and societal barriers.

“When you’re a parent [and a student] that’s always a challenge because you’re not only providing for yourself and somebody else,” Mireles says. “And we have a couple of people that are kind of they’re trying to live independently at age 18 or 19 which is laudable, but in Madison it is very difficult with housing prices. They are working two jobs and trying to gain independence.”

At tonight’s graduation ceremony, Omega School will also recognize the accomplishments of several supporters, including Dr. Nury Crawford Castillo of Madison Metropolitan School Distrcit’s Office of Youth Engagement.

“This celebration is really for the graduates and their families. Oftentimes, they are the first ones in their family to graduate,” Mireles says. “It’s a chance to see how parents are so supportive and are there for their children. Sometimes that gets forgotten.  It’s a student graduating but it’s really the family celebrating the graduate, too.”

Since 1972, Omega School has provided individualized basic skills instruction in a supportive and informal atmosphere, and by working cooperatively with other agencies and institutions, has helped thousands of adults prepare for, and obtain, a GED/HSED credential. Each year, with the two graduation ceremonies, the Omega family gets a little bigger.

“This is my 30th year as executive director at Omega School starting April 1,” Mireles says. “I’ll be having a 30th-anniversary celebration at the Best Western downtown.”

“It’s been a fulfilling job for me because I love to see students have more options. Without options, it’s much easier to get into negative behavior or criminal activity. When you have options, there’s less of an incentive to keep doing that. So, yeah, I think gaining a GED/HSED … it just opens so many doors, and then it closes other doors for things that they realized now that it’s time to move on from.”