The recession has widened the opportunity gap between workers of all educational backgrounds, and unemployment is rising.

In particular, those without a high school diploma are roughly 60 percent more likely to be unemployed than those with a diploma. For people who never fulfilled requirements for a high school degree, GED programs offer the chance to earn a diploma.

Despite the challenges along the path to a degree, many workers, including the four featured in these stories, are hopeful that a diploma will make them more competitive in the professional marketplace.

Fighting to Live the Dream

Ben Sandoval
20 years old

“ Any other parent would have been gave up. She's still there pushing me. ”

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A Determined Life

Modupe Marks
42 years old

“ When I decide to do something, if I have to alter my life to get it done, I'll get it done. ”

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Sky is the Limit

Anthony McKay
29 years old

“ I want to do it in a one-shot deal. Go in there, get my GED, the sky is the limit for me. ”

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Going Back to School

Jesus Serrano
20 years old

“ I was 16 when I dropped out. My grandmother got real sick and the mother of my children at the time got pregnant. ”

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This project presents a collective portrait of students going back to school to earn their GED. Their stories unfold in a series of video profiles produced by students at the Columbia Journalism School.


Fighting to Live the Dream Chase Scheinbaum
Raisa Zaidi
A Determined Life Xian Bu
Neha Prakash
Sky is the Limit Jackie Kostek
Olivia Smith
Going Back to School Cassie Harvey
Raya Jalabi


Mel Burford and Kenan Davis