Sidney Phillips


Sidney Phillips screamed in excitement the moment she learned she passed her high school equivalency exam after 15 months of preparation in the KACC Adult Education program. “Passing that exam and earning my High School Equivalency Diploma was the biggest relief of my life,” Phillips said. “When I learned the news, I cried and screamed, ‘I passed! I passed!’ I was so excited.”

Before returning to the Kokomo area to live with relatives, Phillips tried to earn her high school diploma in other ways. The adult education graduate dropped out of her traditional high school due to personal issues and then enrolled in the National Guard Youth Challenge. This alternative program for youth offers a path to a diploma through a military-style boot camp environment. Phillips learned that program did not meet her needs either.

By the time she moved back to north central Indiana, her desire to earn her diploma felt more urgent; she wanted the next program she enrolled in to be her last. Joining the Kokomo Area Career Center’s adult education program made her nervous at first.

“Going into this unfamiliar process was not easy,” Phillips said. “I learned quickly that I was going to be pushed to my limits, but that was the best thing that could have happened.”

Registration in the program begins with a pretest to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses in five areas of testing: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies. Those results are used to create an individualized plan of study for each student. The teachers at the center work one-on-one with students to provide instruction in areas of weakness, while also offering strategies and tips to improve test-taking skills and build self-confidence. Regular assessments help students monitor progress. Staff members prefer students attend class at least two days per week for two hours each day but will work with students to create more flexible schedules when necessary.

Phillips was among those students who needed a more flexible schedule. After beginning classes in July 2019, Sidney took a break following the death of her mother. She also missed in-person instruction at times due to transportation issues. During these brief interruptions, though, Phillips never lost contact with her teachers. These instructors provided Phillips work she could complete from home and continued to encourage her in her education. Each time Phillips returned to the classroom, she realized how much she missed the class instruction and the teachers. “I loved going in and working with the teachers,” Phillips said. “That one-on-one help was great, and the teachers pushed me, which I needed.”

Phillips said she appreciated that her teachers at the Kokomo Area Career Center believed in her when she didn’t believe in herself. Her own persistence, combined with the confidence of her teachers, helped her self-confidence grow. The newfound attitude and positivity helped carry her through the obstacles she faced along the way.

Due to life circumstances, Phillips said she was preoccupied the first two times she took her High School Equivalency exam. As a result, she failed the reading portion of the exam, though she knew she was capable of passing. Before taking the exam the third time, Phillips told her teacher, “Even if for some reason I don’t make it, I am not going to give up.” That remark left an impression on teacher Janet Geier-Moriarty. “I knew at that moment that Sidney was in it to win it,” Geier-Moriarty said. “That persistence is what I love about Sidney’s spirit.”

Phillips received the results of her third exam on Oct. 13, 2020, nearly 15 months after entering the program; she passed. “I was very happy when we received those results,” Geier-Moriarty said. “I am just so proud of Sidney.” Phillips said her High School Equivalency diploma will allow her to take the next step in her life; she hopes to enroll in college to become a veterinary technician.

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