Picture of Michael Tolbert

Michael Tolbert did not take the traditional path to achieving his high school diploma. As a high school student in the New York City educational system, he encountered obstacles that would have left most discouraged and unwilling to continue. Michael unexpectedly found himself 10 credits short of graduating with his peers, though he had successfully passed the Regents Exams in the core subjects while in high school. At this point, he and his family made a calculated decision. Instead of remaining in high school for an extra year, Michael decided to pursue his High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma.

Enter Inocencia Nieves-Tolbert. Inocencia is not only a Hostos alumni who graduated in 1998 with an Associate Degree in Secretarial Science, she is also a Parent Coordinator for the Proyecto Access Program at Hostos Community College and most importantly, she is Michael’s mom. Inocencia knew that the Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development (CEWD) at Hostos offered an HSE Test Preparation through the Division’s Adult Learning Center.

In March of 2020, she reached out to the ALC, Michael took and passed his HSE placement tests, and then the COVID pandemic shut everything down. Thinking the opportunity for her son to achieve his HSE had come and gone, Michael and Inocencia unexpectedly received a call a few months later from Mr. Yobani Ramos, the Director of the ALC. Mr. Ramos informed them that the HSE Test Prep had transitioned to virtual classes due to the pandemic and asked Michael if he was still interested in the program.

Michael attended the ALC’s virtual orientation where he learned that in 2018, the NY State Education Department began offering an additional pathway to earn an HSE. This new pathway allowed eligible TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) examinees to use passing scores on certain Regents Exams in place of the corresponding TASC subtests. With the help of the ALC and his former high school, Michael applied for a TASC waiver and he was approved.
Fast-forward to February 2021, Michael successfully completed the required prep courses in two subject areas of his choice at CEWD. In March of this year, he received his HSE via the HSE Board of Regents Waiver processed through the HSE Office at the Department of Education. Michael stated that the compassion and encouragement that he received from his HSE teacher and Mr. Ramos gave him the hope and strength to continue on and complete the process of earning his HSE.

Michael has now applied to Hostos Community College in the hopes of pursuing a degree in Digital Design and Animation. Coincidentally, he discovered his passion for the field and made many friends by attending the Proyecto Access STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Summer programs since third grade.