Bobbie Carpenter dropped out of high school the second semester of her freshman year.

Blaming the crowd she hung out with for the reason why she quit school, the Freetown resident said she decided to run the streets for a while before getting a job. She was hired at several Jackson County businesses, including Taco Bell, Rose Acre Farms, Help at Home and a speaker manufacturing company.

Somewhere in there, she married Dennis Carpenter and started a family, raising two boys. Her husband eventually told her he would be the financial provider and she could be a stay-at-home mom. That’s when the 34-year-old realized it was time to finish what she had started.

“I wanted to go back to school because of my kids,” she said.

Since July 2014, Carpenter is one of 18 graduates in Jackson County to receive a high school equivalency diploma. Instead of the GED, the Test Assessing Secondary Completion has been the high school equivalency exam for Hoosiers since January 2014.

Kristin Campbell, an adult education teacher at the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour, said the biggest difference she has seen between the two exams is the math portion, and Carpenter agreed it was much harder.

Campbell said the state has provided adult education teachers with ample professional development to meet the growing math needs.

“Our students are passing the math; therefore, we feel comfortable with the content being taught and (the) preparedness of our students,” she said.

The Jackson County Learning Center, in partnership with the McDowell Adult Education Center in Columbus, offers free classes for students to prepare for the exam.

Campbell said the time it takes for a person to obtain a diploma usually depends on the placement test taken at orientation. But a minimum of 12 hours of class time is required.

“Most students use more than the 12 hours to make sure they are prepared before taking the test,” she said.

Upon passing, students can move on to endeavors that have been on hold. Those might include attending college, receiving a work certificate through the state or obtaining a better career or position at a current job.

“My favorite part of adult education has always been the end result,” Campbell said. “Their lives are changed for the better, for the student and their families.”

For her, Carpenter said, it has been more of a personal achievement to finish, though she’s not opposed to attending college one day.

But going back to school and getting a diploma wasn’t easy after being out of school for so long. It took her about a year to do.

“Going from knowing hardly nothing and then going, ‘OK, can I really do this?’” she said. “It was really hard.”

Carpenter began taking classes at the learning center about twice a week while her boys were in school and soon felt like she was progressing.

At the time, she was prepping for the GED exam because that’s what was available. She took it a few times but didn’t pass; however, she didn’t give up.

Then she hit a speed bump in her educational journey when the GED switched over to the new test last year, causing her to lose her previous scores and having to “start from scratch.”

After catching up to speed with what she needed to be prepared for on the new exam, she passed last fall. She was the first of her four siblings to receive a high school diploma.

“I tell my kids that when I was going through this, it was hard, and I got aggravated because I didn’t really want to go back and get it done. Then I was like, ‘Why am I not passing this thing?’” Carpenter said. “But I told my kids to never give up. I said, ‘If something is hard for you, keep trying and trying and trying until you get it done and you pass it.’”

At a glance

Adult education classes, which offer preparation for the high school equivalency exam, are offered at the Jackson County Learning Center for free. It’s in partnership with McDowell Adult Education Center in Columbus.

Classes are open to people who are at least 16.

For information, call 812-519-2923.

Orientation dates will be posted on the center’s website soon. Visit jclearn.org.