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Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Network hosts graduation ceremony for recent GED grads in suburban Cook County

Partnership program leverages federal funding to help young adults earn their GED and celebrate their accomplishment 

Two delegate agencies in The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) network, Central States Ser and SERCO, recently hosted a high school graduation ceremony for 26 students who earned their Graduate Equivalent Degrees (GEDs). The ceremony was held at The Partnership’s Southwest Suburban Cook County American Job Center (AJC) in North Riverside, IL. The Partnership is a non-profit umbrella organization that operates the public workforce system for the City of Chicago and Cook County. The graduates were enrolled in the free program that helped them earn their GED; the program is supported by federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds allocated through a Partnership grant.

“High school graduation ceremonies are a time of reflection and hope for the future with caps and gowns and photos – a milestone that those who earn a GED don’t typically receive,” said George Wright, Partnership CEO.  “Thinking ‘out of the box’ by creating this moment for graduates and their families to celebrate encourages further education and career advancement.”  

The ceremony was attended by cheering family members who recorded and photographed the event. Along with their degrees, each student was given a plant that symbolized their growth during the program. Seventeen-year-old Angelo Beccera is one of the 26 graduating students and served as the student speaker at the ceremony. His cousins, who graduated from the program in the past, encouraged him to enroll in the GED classes.

“I was excited to participate in the program and earn my GED. I had been out of school for a while and was a little rusty at first,” said Angelo. “There were some challenges, but I learned a lot about hard work and dedication. I stuck with it. Now, I want to study Information Technology (IT) and become a web developer.”

“Obtaining a GED is too often a milestone that is not celebrated,” said Clelia Gomez, The Director of The Partnership’s Southwest Suburban Cook County AJC. “Graduating is an exciting accomplishment and these grads, maybe even more than those who complete the traditional high school path, deserve to be celebrated as well!”

The AJC works with local high school counselors who refer students who are at risk of dropping out or who are no longer enrolled in school. The young adults then meet with career coaches at the AJC to determine eligibility. After registering for the WIOA youth program, they can enroll in GED classes. Each student is assigned a career coach who serves as a mentor and checks in with them throughout the program.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 30,000 people in Illinois have received their GEDs. The youth program targets youth from low-income, underserved communities, including many who are ex-offenders or gang affected. While GED classes can be completed in 2-3 months for some students, the average student can take 6 months to a year to finish the course.

Classes are held in-person at the AJC but there are online options for students who are unable to attend. The classes include social studies, science, math and language arts, which are 4 weeks each. Practice tests are included for every subject to prepare students for the final exams. The Partnership will invest more than $16.5 million in federal WIOA funding in Program Year 2023 to serve youth ages 16-24 in Chicago and suburban Cook County. For more information about this program, visit or contact Clelia Gomez, Director of SERCO – Southwest Suburban Cook County AJC, at [email protected] .

About The Partnership

The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) is a non-profit umbrella organization operating the public workforce system for the City of Chicago and Cook County. The Partnership combines federal and philanthropic resources to provide comprehensive workforce development services to employers and job seekers. As the largest public workforce development system in the nation, The Partnership has helped place more than 70,000 individuals in employment; collaborated with more than 2,000 employers; and administered more than $400 million in federal and philanthropic funds. The Partnership’s network consists of 90+ community-based organizations, American Job Centers, satellite sites and sector-driven centers, serving more than 140,000 people annually.  Learn more at

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