Jennifer Drew envisions a life of travel well documented through her photography. Kristina Andriotakis wants to dive to the deepest depths of the ocean as a marine archeologist.
Yet neither ever formally graduated from high school. Instead they received their General Education Development certificate.
The young women are just two of the hundreds of graduates of the GED program through the Haverhill Partners for Literacy and the Amesbury Literacy and Learning Partnership. Last week, 256 people received their GEDs at Northern Essex Community College.
The number of people getting a GED certificate is on the rise, program officials say, and they're taking their certificate further than ever before.
Alexandra Curtis of Amesbury, who received her certificate last year, has completed her first year of college already and is only 18. She will transfer to the University of New Hampshire after this year.
"Anecdotally we have seen an increase in GED test takers," said Cynthia Therrien, chief examiner of the GED in the local programs. "The GED is the only universally recognized certificate considered an equivalent of a high school diploma; it's another route to get a diploma."
The alternate route is one that Therrien said she sees many students of different ages and backgrounds — from adults looking to finally get a diploma to homeschooled teens ready for the next step — taking as a way to compete in a tough economic world.
"They leave high school for a variety of reasons," Therrien said, noting she does not advise students to drop out. "Sometimes they are not feeling challenged enough and are ready for college or have been laid off, and in order to have comparable employment, there is pressure to get their GEDs or diplomas."
Drew was homeschooled since fifth grade by her mother after having problems keeping up in school due to her dyslexia. After a year and a half of course work, Drew said her experience was a good one.