01STOCK_BLACKHAWKTECH

JANESVILLE

Deborah Newcomb has worked relentlessly to show her four children they can do anything they set their minds to do.

She hopes that seeing her speak Thursday in a video celebrating the 57 Blackhawk Technical College students who are graduating from the high school equivalency diploma program will motivate her kids.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve wanted this my whole life, and I’ve worked so hard for this,” said Newcomb, 37.

The accomplishment didn’t come easy.

Newcomb attended school in Evansville until fourth grade, when her grandparents moved her to a different school.

Her grandparents, who raised her, tried to home-school Newcomb and her sister but had to withdraw them from school programs multiple times because of financial hardships.

Newcomb also has health issues. She suffers from degenerative disk disease in her upper back and neck, and she faces the possible loss of limbs because of the disease. Epilepsy and learning disabilities such as dyslexia have further complicated her life and previous attempts to return to school.

But with the support of her boyfriend, John; her family; and the BTC staff, Newcomb said she scaled her obstacles and graduated from the high school equivalency program in a little more than two years.

Newcomb called her boyfriend “a blessing” because he helped care for her children on Tuesday and Thursday nights while she was in class.

She finished high school this spring along with her two oldest children, Mark and Seiara. Newcomb said she wanted to show her youngest son, Alex, who has autism, that good things come with hard work.

“I’ve been through a lot of abuse and hardship, which has prevented me going to get my GED,” she said. “I wanted the graduating class, my kids and anybody out there to know whatever they want to do, if you have a dream, keep going because I’m living proof it can happen no matter what’s happening in your life.

“It really is true that you can be anything you want to be.”

Newcomb plans to continue attending BTC to earn a criminal justice degree. She hopes to be a probation officer one day.

Darian Snow, manager of the college’s learning support division, which oversees the high school equivalency diploma program, said earning such a degree—often called a general education degree or GED—helps students take the next step in their work lives.

He said students graduating this year should be especially proud.

“It was a job well done,” Snow said. “This was a challenging year with having to switch to online because of the coronavirus. There were so many struggles these students had to get through just in that alone, but they still made it, and their persistence showed and got them through.”

In the graduation video, Newcomb said her persistence was worth it.

“Don’t ever give up,” she said. “Follow your dreams. If you do this, you will be very happy in life. I know this for a fact as I have been chasing my dreams for a very long time. … I fought hard to obtain my education and my dreams.”

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