Evening classes make high school diploma easier

Barbara Hootman

Crystal Wacaser dropped out of school in 1976, thinking that she wasn’t ready to go any further. But in 2000 later, she went back to school through the evening high school equivalency classes at Carver Community Center.

Discontinued by Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in December 2013, the evening classes will return to the Valley in January at Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry’s small campus in Black Mountain (the ministry will continue its daytime HSE classes).

Like the daytime classes, the evening classes are meant to help students improve their foundational skills in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science, as well as to help them get high school diplomas. They are for residents of the Swannanoa Valley, a few of whom were at day classes Dec. 17 when Wacaser, now 59, explained how determined she was to get her high school degree.

“We hope to reach a broader range of people seeking to complete a high school equivalency credential by offering the evening classes in addition to the day classes,” Martha S. Hubert of AB Tech’s transitional studies department said by e-mail. “The college is willing to offer these new evening classes through June 2016, and I want them to be a success so that they can continue beyond that.”

The classes will resume at the Opportunity House at the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry (101 N. Ridgeway Ave., Black Mountain) from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Jan. 12. These classes are in addition to the current daytime classes that meet Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The classes are free.

“Since we already have daytime high school equivalency classes, the new night time ones will broaden the program and reach more people,” said Renae Brame, the ministry’s executive director. “We are in partnership with (the community college) and will offer these classes as long as the college has funding for the teachers.”

Wacaser, a Black Mountain resident who has cerebal palsy, spent 13 years finishing the high school equivalency classes. She was 40 when she started.

“The hardest subject for me was reading. Now I love to read,” she said in a recent interview. “The classes opened a whole new world to me. I made up my mind to stick with it regardless of how long it took. My teachers and my husband, Eddie, encouraged me. Now I am going to attend college starting next fall and major in public speaking. I want to teach others.”

Wacaser said she never thought she would understand math but now considers it fun. “I tell people if they really want something to go for it, and don’t let anything stop you,” she said. She wants to teach people how to read.

Calvin Sheppard took the classes in 2013. He found them challenging and relied on the help of teachers to finish the program and receive his high school diploma.

“The classes really made a big difference in my progress in education,” he said. “I finished them, graduated and started at AB Tech.” Having relocated, he will be attending Gaston College in Gastonia in January.

Sheppard didn’t like math, but now he has discovered the language of math and enjoys it.

“It is complicated, and sometimes you have to do extra work to understand it, but it is worth the challenge,” he said. “Math helps you do a lot of things in life. My grandmother and teachers encouraged me to take the classes and get my high school diploma.

“I didn’t have much confidence when I started, but Marty Shubert at AB Tech motivated me to finish high school. It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.”

To learn more, contact Shubert at