For most members of this graduating class, Monday’s triumphant ceremony marked the end of an arduous journey, one that required them to overcome many obstacles along the way.

On a still-sunny early evening in the packed garden of the Plymouth Public Library, 14 students received diplomas for having passed the General Educational Development test, or GED. the high school degree equivalent. (Two other grads could not make it to the event.)  

Sidney Frederic’s path to this garden celebration was an especially long and tortuous one. Frederic, 26, grew up in New Bedford and West Virginia. At 17, he became homeless.  

“When I went to high school, my bags weren’t really filled with school essentials,” he said. “It was more my clothes, shampoo, conditioner.”

Frederic ended up dropping out, taking Greyhound buses between Massachusetts and West Virginia that left him with long layovers on the streets of New York, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. The people he met along the way – including fellow homeless people – made him realize what he wanted to do with his life.

“A lot of teachers and a lot of guidance counselors didn’t catch red flags when I was young and didn’t catch that I was going through a lot,” Frederic said. “I want to be that guidance counselor that makes a difference.”  

He moved to Plymouth and last year married the woman he had been with for six years.  

He said the GED program run by the Plymouth Public Library pointed him in a better direction.

When morning group classes were not working out because he had to go his job at Stop and Shop, he was allowed to study by himself.  

It took him two years to get through the program.  

State Rep. Kathleen LaNatra congratulates Marceline Ngossai, who recently became a U.S. citizen. Credit: (Photo by Wes Ennis)

Some students have taken as little as three months and as many as three years to pass the four tests required for the GED, said program director Kristen Enos. Students can also take the five tests required for the HiSET, or the High School Equivalency Test.

The tests are in math, reading, writing, social studies, and science, Enos said. They are similar – but not the same as – the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS.

Graduates have been as young as 16 and as old as in their 80s, Enos said. Monday night, the graduates ranged in age from 17 to their 30s.  

Sidney Frederic (third from right) had a crowd of supporters on hand as he received his GED on Monday at the library. Credit: (Photo by Wes Ennis)

John Paul Rondeau, 18, was home schooled until his junior year in high school. But when that stopped working for him, he decided to find another way to get his high school degree. The goal was to become an aviation mechanic. It took him about half a year to go through the GED program. He hopes to enroll in Cape Cod Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program as soon as this fall.

Another grad, Hasler Lima, almost 40, is an immigrant from Portugal. He has been in the United States for five years. He is self-employed as a property manager. It took him nine months to complete the GED program.  

“They have a great team here,” he said. “They have passion.”

The next step is college, he said.  

The GED program offers three daytime classes and four evening classes funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Additional funding comes from the Plymouth Public Library Foundation, which hosts an annual golf tournament to raise funds for the program. The foundation contributes $17,000 towards the salary of one staff member, with the town contributing another $17,000, as well as funds to get students GATRA passes.

Ask anyone who’s done it, and they’ll tell you that getting through the program isn’t easy.

“Going to high school is hard enough,” said Enos, “but when you leave high school and you have the challenges of family, work, and other obstacles in your life, it’s even harder to go through it this way.”

The program has existed for more than 30 years, said Enos. It has two aspects: the GED and another program that teaches English to immigrants and prepares them to take the U.S. citizenship test. About 120 students are enrolled in the GED program.  

For Frederic, math was the hardest subject. He failed the test the first time.

“It discouraged me,” he said. But he persisted and passed the second time.

Now he’s ready to take on college. 

“I want to be able to make an impact on somebody’s life someday, and I’m not going to be able to make an impact without it,” he said. “I want to be able to help kids or teenagers go through whatever I went through as a kid.”

Fred Thys can be reached at

Share this story

We believe that journalism as a public service should be free to the community.
That’s why the support of donors like you is critical.

Thank you to our sponsors. Become a sponsor.