Omega School graduates (photo by Martin Jenich)

“For some of our students, they are the first ones in their families to finish high school. So this is really, really big. That changes the dynamic of a family,” says Oscar Mireles, executive director and principal of Omega and Madison’s current poet laureate. “Finishing high school opens up a lot of possibilities not only for the graduate, but for their families and their children.”

Omega School, Inc. – who have helped thousands of adults prepare for and obtain a GED/HSED credential and education over the last 45 years – is inviting the greater community to come and to celebrate the accomplishments of its Winter Class of 2018 tonight at 6 p.m. at Vine Church on Madison’s south side. Omega School provides the cap and gown, the invitations, and has a professional photographer going around taking pictures of the graduates. “It’s really big for them, but their kids also see it and really changes how they feel. ‘I wanna graduate, too!’ they say,” Mireles tells Madison365.

There will be about a dozen students who have finished up their GED/HSED who will be celebrated at tonight’s event. “Each one has a different journey, so that makes it interesting,” Mireles says.

John Hayes and his wife Cathy Swanson are sponsoring a scholarship, Mireles says, that will be presented to Amanda Jones at the Omega School GED/HSED Graduation ceremony tonight.

“We have one student who is from Jordan and he’s Egyptian. He earned a diploma in his old country but because of the war and everything else he wasn’t able to get the transcripts to prove it. He’s really smart and an amazing young guy,” Mireles says of Omega School graduate Abdelrahman Salem. “He’s graduating and he’s already enrolled in Madison College full time. He’s the recipient of our Founder’s Scholarship.”

Omega School graduates celebrate at Fountain of Life last year.

The Omega graduates are always very diverse – black, white, Latino, Asian – and they are often a variety of ages, too. “Tonight’s event is a chance for them to share their journeys and to talk about what got them to this point,” Mireles says. “For each one, it was something kinda different that prompted them not to finish high school and then there was a job, a child or a life circumstance that made them realize that they have to go back. The older you are, the bigger steps those are to make.”

For 23 years, Mireles has interacted with every student to come through Omega’s doors, supporting their futures through helping them pass their GED exams. “I’ll be starting my 24th year in April, so in about two months it will be 24 years,” Mireles says. “I love seeing people move on to the next steps in their lives. A lot of the students have shared with me that they thought that this would never happen.”

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.

Graduates are able to use their GED as a stepping stone to a variety of positive things in life. “We’ve had people move on to get different degrees and do different things in our community. We have people who are in law school now,” Mireles says. “For each person, it is a different journey … but this is the first big step. Without this, you can’t do the other things.”