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On May 28, 2010, NCC Outpatient Case Manager Beth Smith listened to a message from her client Donna G. that made her smile from ear-to-ear. "Hey Beth, I passed my GED!" Although Donna’s message was brief, the call was three years in the making.

Donna first expressed interest in getting her GED to Beth back in 2007, when she came to Special Tree to continue her rehabilitation from a brain injury she experienced in 2001. It was an ambitious goal for Donna who was still in recovery and who was learning the independent living skills needed to transition from Special Tree’s residential program to a supported living apartment at Church Street. But Beth saw the look of a determined woman and decided that her treatment team would rally behind Donna getting her GED. "I’ve seen people do miraculous things just because they had the motivation and desire," said Beth.

It was a team effort to get the right supports in place to help Donna accomplish her goal. Donna, who dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, needed academic, financial, and especially emotional support to get through the challenging coursework. Beth met regularly with Donna to provide social work support and even found herself cracking open old text books to help Donna in writing, math, social studies, and science. The staff at Church Street, especially Crystal Arquette, also provided needed supports when Donna transitioned there in 2008.

But Donna’s motivation to study was sporadic as she struggled with personal setbacks and low self-confidence. "I had a hard time believing in myself," she said. "At the time, I still focused on what I couldn’t do, but Beth and others kept my confidence up and said I could do this."
"I pushed her to the end of her rope," said Beth jokingly. "Whenever Donna presented a stumbling block, I had to think of a way to remove it. I didn’t want her to fail." When Donna struggled with math, Beth found an outpatient client who volunteered to be Donna’s math tutor. When she’d get frustrated and lose focus, Beth and Donna worked on stress management and relaxation strategies. "Beth was perfect for me," said Donna. "She pushed me and encouraged me to keep going."

Donna’s motivation finally kicked into high gear in January after successfully overcoming some personal struggles that resulted in finding a winning combination of medical interventions and supports. With continued help from her treatment team, Donna started to make remarkable progress. "She really impressed everyone with her focus and determination," said Crystal.

When Donna received the news that she passed her GED, she says her self-confidence, "went through the roof! Earning my GED has given me a sense of accomplishment that no one can take away."