Jennifer Marenbach, BeLit GED and Pre-Apprentice Graduate

Jennifer Marenbach has always had an interest in learning and acquiring new skills. Growing up in Philadelphia, Jen attended multiple schools searching for a supportive environment in which to learn, but too often she grew discouraged by her classmates’ lack of commitment and respect. Peer bullying lead her to drop out of high school early and look for learning opportunities in the workplace instead.

Over the years, Jen has worked in a variety of jobs from waitressing to house painting. Becoming a mom at age 17, she made a promise to herself that she would complete her GED before her daughter graduates high school. However, over time, Jen faced unanticipated hardships that culminated in a brief incarceration in 2020 over custody challenges involving her 5-year-old son. With her children as inspiration, Jen knew it was time to commit to making major changes in her life starting with achieving her goal of earning her GED.

Last August, Jen was accepted into Beyond Literacy’s green energy pre-apprenticeship program in partnership with the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA), allowing her to study a new trade while simultaneously working toward her GED. “I never thought I’d want to be a welder or an electrician, but this program is freeing me from being stuck in a bad place. I realize that I need to prioritize my education,” Jen said.

In only a month, Jen quickly passed the GED portion of the program with strong scores in all four subjects. Her daughter, currently a senior in high school, is proud of her mom’s determination and fulfillment of her lifetime goal. Jen shares her pride, “My kids are a part of my story. They’re the reason I was able to succeed this time around.”

While Jen worked on the technical training portion of the program by day, her evenings were spent completing a substance abuse treatment and recovery program. Feeling a part of a supportive class community for the first time in her life, Jen offered encouragement and tutoring to her classmates when they felt stuck or discouraged. “I wanted us all to graduate and succeed. It was the least I could do for all that [Beyond Literacy] does for us,” Jen said.

In addition to the mutual support from her classmates, Jen says that her instructors made a huge impact on her progress in the program. “I genuinely believe with all my heart that these people are invested in my future,” she said. Inspired to give back and help others on their wellness journeys, Jen has decided to continue furthering her education and pursue a degree in Human Services. She is excited to have recently been accepted into Community College of Philadelphia.

It may have taken longer than she expected, but Jen is proud of her perseverance and looks forward to exploring new career possibilities ahead. “Having this opportunity has really helped me, not only make it through, but to believe that everything is going to change for the better,” Jen said. “I’m so glad I decided to go for it.”

Read the March newsletter, The BeLit Bulletin here:

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