Spring/Summer 2018 Newsletter – Program Spotlight


Program Spotlight: High School Equivalency Preparation in Spanish

“A diploma opened many doors for me in this country. Without a diploma you cannot do anything,” says Imiler Morales, who arrived in the United States from Cuba barely two years ago. 

Imiler didn’t know a word of English when he came to the U.S. He had earned a high school diploma in Cuba, but as is the case with most refugees, he did not have (and could not possibly request) any documentation of his education. So, his first task upon arrival here was to get a high school equivalency diploma by sitting for and passing the TASC exam. But to just take this exam, he had to overcome a major hurdle: a series of courses that cover the five subjects on the test (reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies).

“We are one of the few places in New York that offers free courses in Spanish to help students prepare for the TASC,” says Hilda V. Cortés, Union Settlement’s Director of Adult Education. “Students come to us from 10 to 15 different Latin American countries with different levels of education, and it can be very challenging.”

To take the TASC exam, you must be at least 19 years old and live in New York. The test is offered in Spanish and, like the English test, it includes all five subjects. In general, students come to class three to four times a week. In some cases, students are ready to take the test in less than six months. However, many times students have difficult schedules with work or family, or start with a lower education level, and this process can take up to two years.

“Recent immigrants have a different set of conditions than other students, which forces them to make a greater effort. They have to make a greater sacrifice to obtain this diploma that will undoubtedly open a window of opportunity,” says José Iglesias, one of our adult education teachers.

Once they are ready, students can go to one of more than 20 centers in New York City to take the exam. The TASC test takes about nine hours to complete and is usually taken in two days. If the student doesn’t pass one or more of the subjects, those sections can be retaken after two months. “The exam was very difficult in terms of time. Each section has a time limit in which you have to complete it, and that factor really was the most difficult part of the exam,” says Imiler.

Imiler passed his TASC exam and earned his High School Equivalency diploma. He continues to take English classes at Union Settlement, where he is also the editor of his class newsletter. He works as a home health aide and plans to enter a nursing program in the near future. Imiler says, “Thank you, Union Settlement, for making a big part of my dream come true.”