By Lisa Calcasola
People don’t graduate from high school for a number of reasons, be it because of economic instability, social pressures, or other influences. Adults who do not have a high school diploma or equivalency feel it is increasingly harder if not impossible in today’s world to find a job and/or maintain job security without proof of their high school education.
There is a program in lower Manhattan that offers hope to people wishing to complete their high school education, which has become almost required for economic survival. Unfortunately, many of today’s high school equivalency classes have been bought and privatized by businesses, and are no longer free. The Consortium for Worker’s Education on West 17th has kept the program free of charge to participants, as well as ensuring that participants do not need a Social Security number to take classes, thanks to lobbying work by union workers.
Mr. David Felicier is one of twenty or so members who gather every Saturday in school to take the classes. Mr. Felicier and his wife, Patricia Escobar, are so committed to getting their education that they commute every Saturday from the Poconos mountains of Pennsylvania to New York City, a journey of over 100 miles.
“’I’m a maintenance worker,” says Mr. Felicier. “I fix broken stuff.” He works for the New York City Housing Authority at various public housing sites.
Mr. Felicier was born and raised on the lower East Side and attended Grand Street Settlement School until 1979. He dropped out of high school when he says he mixed with a “bad crowd.”
“I’m trying to get my GED so that I can move up in my job,” Mr. Felicier says. “Simple as that. My dream is to move from maintenance, which I am now, to assistant super, maybe even super.”
This dream is impossible to reach without the degree. “It doesn’t matter how much money you’re earning at your job. I earn $3000 every two weeks, but that doesn’t mean anything if I could get fired the next day. You need a high school diploma in today’s world—without it, you are never going to have a stable salary, let alone a chance to move up.”
Mr. Felicier met his wife in the Poconos mountains when he was 28 years old. They have three children: one in college, one in high school, and one in seventh grade. It is a standing joke that the Felicier kids help their parents with their high school homework. Rather than making fun of their parents, however, the kids encourage mom and dad to continue working toward their degrees.
“I’ve always said to my kids, never laugh at people. Help them,” said Mrs. Felicier.
“A final piece of advice for you guys to write down,” Mr. Felicier said jokingly. “Don’t get pregnant or get other people pregnant. Once you have kids, everything changes, and there are too many kids having kids nowadays. Finish your education and then do that other stuff, so that when you do have a family, you’ll be financially and emotionally stable.
“And finally, raise your kids in the mountains like we do. The city is full of danger and distractions. Trust me, I know. A quiet place in the mountains to raise a family is the way to go.”