Tara Groblewski of Jaffrey receives high school diploma after 21 years

  • Tara Groblewski, who recieved her diploma through ConVal’s Adult Diploma Program aftr being one credit short for 21 years, with her new diploma after walking at ConVal’s 2022 graduation. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • After being one credit short of her diploma for 21 years, Tara Groblewski walked at ConVal’s graduation after receiving a diploma through ConVal’s Adult Diploma Program. Her decorated graduation cap reads, “She believed she could so she did.” —COURTESY PHOTO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/17/2022 9:00:39 AM

Tara Groblewski was set to graduate Milford High School in 2001.

On June 10, 2022, she walked across the stage at ConVal and received her diploma.

After a rough spring semester of her senior year at Milford High, Groblewski left high school two credits short. She was told that those two classes – English and U.S. History – would be offered at her school that summer.

“I passed (English), I got an A-plus in summer school. But they didn’t have enough students for a social studies class,” she said. “So it was always that social studies credit that I needed.”

In the years since then, Groblewski, a 39-year-old mother of two who lives in Jaffrey, tried twice to finish her diploma, but events such as the birth of her daughter and illness in her family prevented her from getting that final credit.

“Life happens, and it just didn’t work out then,” she said.

However, Groblewski has emphasized the value of education to her children for their entire lives, which was a source of inspiration for her to go back to school.

“My daughter graduates high school next year, and I always preach to her the importance of having a diploma, yet I didn’t have mine,” she said. “If I’m going to tell my kids they have to do it, I have to do it. So I did.”

Groblewski got her last credit through ConVal’s Adult Diploma Program (ADP), which has recently been expanded under the direction of Tyler Mudrick, a special education teacher and case manager at ConVal, who has directed the program for three years. The ADP differs from a GED (general education developmental) programs in that a GED is centered around passing tests in multiple subject areas, and classes are not required. The ADP requires students to complete classes for credit. Both are comparable to a high school diploma and can be used to apply for college or entry-level jobs.

Eric Bowman, who has taught social studies at ConVal for 26 years, taught Groblewski’s class. This was his first year teaching a night class through ADP.

“The fact that we have this program is fantastic, and the fact that it’s growing under Tyler is very exciting,” he said. “Everybody learns at their own pace. Life gets in the way, and sometimes completing your education isn’t in the cards. If we don’t have these opportunities, we’re leaving people out, and that’s not OK.”

Mudrick received a $25,000 grant for the ADP in February from the state Department of Education, which allowed the program to expand and offer four different night classes, which ran from March 26 to June 6. These classes were open and free to all. Mudrick is unsure if there will be costs attached to the program in the future, but hopes that they will continue to be able to waive fees. Similar classes through the Keene School District’s Alternative Diploma Program cost $150 per class.

“It’s more important to see a student or adult walk across the stage and get their diploma,” he said.

According to Groblewski, Mudrick’s support was integral to the process.

“He was just great from the start, and always made me feel welcome,” she said.

Even with strong support from teachers, community and family, there were still plenty of nerves attached to going back to high school.

“I was really nervous. I felt awkward and out of place,” Groblewski said. “But I wasn’t there for (anyone else). I was there for me. There definitely were nights when I was like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ but that’s part of graduation, and getting the credit. I had to show up. You have to show up.”

In addition to challenging her comfort zone, Groblewski learned skills that she didn’t expect to gain in the class.

“I showed up on my first day with my notebook and pencil, and kids nowadays don’t use notebooks and pencils! It’s all online, it’s all Google Classroom. I learned how to do a Google slideshow, (which) I’ve never had to do before,” she said, adding that Bowman helped her navigate these new learning styles and technologies.

According to Bowman, Groblewski played an important mentorship role in the class, which made her stand out as a student and as a person.

“She was the oldest person in the class, and she came with a perspective that other students didn’t have,” Bowman said. 

Mudrick told a similar story.

“She played a very important role for some of our younger students as a mentor,” he said. “Speaking from experience, she was able to say, ‘Don’t make some of the choices that I did.’”

Beyond her class at ConVal, it’s not unusual for Groblewski to impact the younger people in her community. She works in the kitchen at Conant High School, and said she always keeps an eye out for students who might need a little extra love.

“Growing up, I didn’t always have a solid family foundation. I was one of those problem children,” she said. “So I had people who invested in me, and I feel like kids need that. Sometimes these kids need grownups to be on their level, no judgement or anything.”

Groblewski hopes to use her diploma to further her education and eventually fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I’ve always wanted to be a social worker,” she said. “I didn’t get to do it in my 20s, so maybe I’ll do it in my 40s. That’s my next big goal.”

The day of graduation and the days following have been emotional for Groblewski, as well as others involved. 

“I saw my two kids look at me when I got my diploma, and they just looked at me, so proud,” she said, tearing up. “This. This is why I did it. For my kids, and for myself.”

“Being able to watch her at graduation, I’m just so proud and happy,” said Mudrick. “It’s super-emotional and super-meaningful. It’s hard to put into words the impact that it’s going to have on her life.”

Both Mudrick and Bowman are proud to have been a part of the process, but said all the credit goes to Groblewski for her success.

“She did it. She deserves all the accolades that she’s been getting,” Bowman said. “To just be mentioned in that conversation is an honor.”

“I definitely can’t take all the credit,” said Mudrick. “She did it herself. Being a part of that is so incredibly special.”

Mudrick plans to have remote and independent options for the ADP throughout next fall, and resume full classes again in spring 2023. For information, contact him at tmudrick@conval.edu or at convaladp@conval.edu.

Groblewski’s message for those considering enrolling in the ADP or similar programs is simple – it’s never too late.

“Put all of your nerves, anxiety and all of that aside and just do it,” she said. “If I hadn’t done it now, you could do it when you’re 50, or 60. Honestly, it’s never too late.”

 


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