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Ten people receive GEDs at nonprofit’s first graduation ceremony

January 20, 2024
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MILWAUKEE — Friday marked a day of firsts for ten adults and the place they got their education, Joyce’s House Education Center.

Eric Garcia Ramirez is one of the people graduating with their GED, or General Educational Development test. The certification is an alternative to the U.S. high school diploma.

“Getting this diploma means a lot to me because I can get something out of my life and help other people,” Ramirez smiled. “When you don’t have a diploma, you didn’t have privilege of other doors opening. It’s the same doors all the time.”

He was one of ten graduates at Joyce’s House’s first ever GED graduation ceremony. The afternoon was filled with cheers, smiles, hugs, and tears.

Founder Mercedez Butts said, since they started the nonprofit three years ago, they’ve granted at least 700 GEDs to people across the city.

“It can improve quality of life, increase income, improve housing, improve healthcare. The doors open,” Mercedez smiled.

You might recognize Mercedez – she accepted our Positively Milwaukee Legacy Award in 2022 on behalf of her grandmother Joyce.

Mercedez opened Joyce’s House to help other women get sober. Now it’s expanded to help everyone finish their high school educations too.

“My grandma didn’t have a high school GED. After 14 years of being sober, this is what she wanted,” Mercedez reflected.

According to the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau, 10.5% of adults in Milwaukee County ages 25 or older did not graduate high school.

The reasons why though are far more personal.

“I dropped out my senior year, had a baby, and procrastinated,” Janae Smith said. “My biggest fear now is letting her graduate before I graduate.”

Smith has 17 years of education in the healthcare field, and now with a GED, hopes to eventually open her own private practice nursing center.

The ceremony was hosted with the support of Bader Philanthropies, an organization helping people through grants and program related investments.

For more information or to get involved, you can visit Joyce’s House’s website.