Value is often associated with monetary worth, but it extends beyond that. It encompasses how an item impacts your emotions, creates future possibilities, and influences your daily routine. Take a car, for example. In our area, owning a vehicle is essential. Let’s say a car costs $20,000. This investment offers you more than just a mode of transportation. It gives you the freedom to pursue job opportunities beyond walking distance, visit loved ones, ensure safety, and have flexibility for everyday tasks like grocery shopping. Moreover, it instills pride and confidence in your ability to save and make such a purchase. Although the car has a price tag of $20,000, its true value in enhancing your life is immeasurable.

The same principle can be applied when it comes to completing high school education. Obtaining a diploma offers far more benefits than just a higher salary. However, the conventional path to achieving a high school diploma may not always be straightforward for everyone. Dropping out of school can be triggered by various factors such as bullying, health issues, the need to work full-time to support younger siblings due to parental neglect. Regardless of the reasons, leaving school incomplete can weigh heavily on one’s mind. The emotional impact of unfinished business varies for each individual, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with refocusing and pursuing education is universally valued.

The Maine adult education system offers assistance to those wanting to earn a High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). HiSET consists of five subtests and is aligned with college and career readiness standards in the areas of: language arts for both reading and writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. It’s rather demanding and the majority of test preparation is through independent study. To learn more, go to hiset.org.

Three years ago, upon discovering the exceptional adult learning programs in the region, the challenges overcome by HiSET recipients, and the lack of community recognition for their accomplishments, One Community Many Voices (OCMV) embarked on a mission to show appreciation through simple acts of kindness. Collaborating with local businesses and Adult Learning Programs in RSU 40, RSU 13, and the Five Town Community School District, OCMV created graduation gift bags. During the small June graduation ceremonies of these three adult learning programs, an OCMV representative presents each graduate with a gift bag containing a $50 Visa gift card, a cupcake, a handwritten congratulations card, and various donations from local businesses.

Last year, a few weeks after distributing the gift bags, OCMV received a thank-you card in the mail. The card contained a heartfelt message from a woman who expressed her deepest gratitude. She briefly mentioned that the past few years had been challenging for her. During her time in traditional schooling, she faced constant bullying, which caused her to doubt her self-worth. This experience led to low self-esteem, mental health struggles, and unfortunately, an attempted suicide. With the help of counseling, support from family, she was able to rebuild her self-esteem and focus on creating a positive and fulfilling future. Obtaining her HiSET diploma marks the beginning of her educational journey towards pursuing college.

In her own words, “While pursuing my HiSET diploma, I encountered educators who turned into mentors and peers who became true friends. This reinforced the encouragement I’ve received from my counselor and family. Though some in our community may stereotype those of us who take a different path to achieving a high school education. I didn’t have a good experience in traditional schooling and at the time, my mental health prevented me from succeeding. I returned when it was the right time for me to succeed. I’m excited about my future. Your gift bag made me cry. I am a woman that had some tough teenage years. I’ve worked hard to make sure those years do not define me or my future. I couldn’t find the right words to express those feelings so instead the appreciation came out in tears. Tears of joy. Tears of pride. Thank you for seeing my true worth.”

Value is often equated with monetary terms, but it goes beyond just dollars and cents. It encompasses the emotional aspect, future prospects, and daily impact. Earning a HiSET is valuable – putting a dollars and cents value on it would be impossible. For those that obtain their HiSET they are investing in their future by creating a new path forward. To create a $60 valued gift bag doesn’t take much but the value-added impact it has on the recipients. PRICELESS!

Kindness is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.