Adult Education Student Named NYACCE ‘Student of the Year’

     Published on 9/24/18   Tagged under:    District News   

This is a photo of Adult Education student Thomas Kopp, smiling while sitting at a desk in his cap and gown.
SCSD Adult Education student Thomas Kopp has been selected as a New York Association for Continuing and Community Education (NYACCE) Outstanding Adult Student Award Recipient for 2018! Thomas was nominated by Adult Education Coordinator Kathy Lent for his dedication in achieving his long-standing goal of earning his High School Equivalency diploma. Tom is pursuing a pathway of becoming a peer counselor to work with those who struggle with mental health challenges.

To read more about Thomas, please see below for the nomination essay Ms. Lent and Clare Pietra submitted.


Thomas Kopp entered my HSE (High School Equivalency) classroom in the late fall of 2017.  Tom was 59 years old when he heard about the HSE program through St. Joseph’s PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services) program, an adult behavioral health outpatient program in our community.  Tom has spent much of his adult life in programs for individuals challenged with special needs.  Entering the HSE program, he was eager to learn and shared his desire to accomplish a long-standing goal of obtaining his HSE diploma, as he had dropped out of Bishop Ludden High School many years earlier.  Tom is very bright and is an outstanding writer with so much to share, but he needed help with math skills to raise them to the TASC level.  He had not yet studied algebra or geometry, and needed to review the world of fractions.  He had his work cut out for him!  Tom was already a great reader, so we set the course that would eventually point to the TASC exam and his HSE diploma.

Tom learned very quickly.  Along the way, he would practice essay questions.  Writing this narrative right now, I can honestly say Tom is a much better writer than I will ever be.  To prepare him for the writing exam, we spent most of our time time cutting down and streamlining his writing to answer the test question, not solving the problems of the world, which Tom is eager to do!  Tom lives in a residential home for adults with mental health struggles.  Tom would come to class every day by bus, a route that would take him one and a half hours each way, every day.  As I would arrive in my classroom, he was already there and ready to work.  I was greeted with “Hello Clare, how are you today?” each day from Tom.  He also encouraged the other students in their journey to the TASC, and many of his peers successfully completed the TASC by April. Tom and I began the work of securing accommodations for the upcoming May exam.  Accommodations were approved, and Tom sat for the exam.  Overcoming doubts and anxieties within, Tom Kopp successfully completed and passed the TASC exam in May, on his first attempt, and with excellent scores!

Tom hurdled many internal difficulties, and was so determined that he was able to work past his own anxieties that are common to those who are in circumstances similar to Tom’s.  Tom amazes me and demonstrates that it is possible to realize your life’s dreams, to overcome real obstacles, and achieve your life goals.  What a rewarding experience - to be able to regain life’s lost dreams and set new goals for yourself, at any age, overcoming difficult barriers.  Through all of this, Tom has remained a very humble person.  This is Adult Education at its best!

Today, Tom is pursuing the pathway of becoming a peer counselor to work with those who struggle with mental health challenges.  He will be very effective as he contributes his energies to this awesome population.  Tom may also now write all the essays he wants, as we no longer have to focus on other areas of the TASC exam, sharing his thoughts to those who will have the privilege of reading his work.  He is a world changer.  It is my privilege to nominate Mr. Thomas Kopp for a 2018 NYACCE Student of the Year Award!