June 30, 2021 by HCDE-Texas
Rhanda Madison’s quest to earn her GED was anything but easy. The determined grandmother started her journey five years ago, dealing with setbacks along the way.
Already in remission from multiple sclerosis, she suffers from congestive heart failure and now has a pacemaker. In addition, she is a cancer survivor. Several years ago, she was attacked by a pair of pit bulls who broke and mauled her leg. She received 187 stitches to repair the damage.
Still, nothing could stop Madison from realizing her dream and proving to her children and grandchildren that education matters.
Madison enrolled in Harris County Department of Education GED classes in Baytown during the 2017-18 school year. She passed the social studies and science sections but failed reading and math. With remediation, she passed reading, but math was her Achilles heel. After four attempts and many hours of practice and instruction, she passed her math test this year.
She credits her cadre of GED teachers and strong faith in God for helping her through her journey. As she continues her education at Lee College in Baytown, she reflects on the people and experiences that helped her succeed.
“Don’t ever think you are too old to accomplish your goals,” said the 57-year-old mother of three and foster mother to 23 children. “It’s never too late to dream. I just put God first and he lights the way.”
Teacher Elsa Kleiman remembers her untraditional student’s struggles with math in both in-person and virtual classes after the pandemic hit.
“Learning math took every bit of determination she had, but she never gave up on her goal,” said Kleiman, a veteran teacher of 46 years who retired and came to teach math at HCDE 10 years ago. “She wanted to be validated as both a mother and a learner.”
The model student sat in the front row, focused on the prize and encouraged other classmates to never give up, Kleiman related. She was so impressed with Madison that she nominated her for the National Adult Education Honor Society, an elite award given to select HCDE students each year.
“She would tell us about her foster kids and her grandchildren,” she said. “She was very proud of her three children because they were all professionals and had good careers. She had taught them to value education.”
Madison had dropped out of high school three months before graduation after finding out she was pregnant.
“I gave into peer pressure,” she said.
As she enrolled in math class 38 years later, she likened algebra to learning a foreign language.
“Math was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life,” Madison said. “Even with my extensive health struggles.”
Of conquering equations and word problems one by one, Madison admits to being “a lot of scared.” With the help of patient teachers, copious notes and extensive study sessions, she prevailed.
On April 21, 2021, everybody on Facebook knew that Rhanda Madison had received her GED. Her prized Mother’s Day gift in May was a bracelet with three charms: a mother, a grandmother and a diploma.
“I’m a great notetaker, and the next day I gave all my notes to a classmate who hadn’t passed the test,” she said. “I asked her to return them so we could pass them on to the next GED student who needed them.”
She encourages other late-life achievers to never give up on their dreams.
“I’m living my best life right now,” she said. “I’m happy, and it’s going great.”
For information about free upcoming adult education classes at HCDE, go to www.hcde-texas.org/adult-education.