If you go
What: Fort Wayne Community Schools Adult and Continuing Education Department’s commencement ceremony
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: North Side High School, 475 E. State Blvd.
Brieanna Strebig knew it wasn’t going to be possible to catch up.
Her first two years of high school had been a blur of surgery after surgery and despite her best efforts, online classes weren’t enough.
“At that point, it all just really put her behind,” said her mom, Teresa Strebig. “We didn’t think she’d ever catch up.”
Brieanna made the difficult decision to drop out of high school knowing it would be impossible for her to graduate with her class.
But it was then she learned of another option – a GED class that would make it possible for the 18-year-old to graduate and follow her dream of becoming a teacher.
Tonight, she will be honored as one of 574 graduates from the Fort Wayne Community Schools Adult and Continuing Education Department.
Strebig was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2 after being born several months premature.
During her first few years, there were few signs of the challenges ahead, her mother said.
“She’d roll around and tumble and do all of those things kids her age do,” she said.
But by age 4, Strebig needed a wheelchair full time and doctors began to say the young girl would never walk again.
She began her education at Croninger Elementary School and Blackhawk Middle School, but it wasn’t always easy dealing with other students who weren’t familiar with the challenges she faced.
During her freshman year at Snider High School, Strebig had surgery on her spine that resulted in her missing most of the school year.
Her sophomore year was met with another surgery, this time to help with incontinence issues.
By the time she was healed and ready to return to classes, she was so far behind it wouldn’t have been worth it, her mother said.
She tried online learning, but wanted a teacher to help her better understand the concepts.
Strebig learned she could complete her courses through a GED program at the Bill C. Anthis Career Center.
“I had to take a lot of classes because of all I’d missed,” Strebig said. “I took math and Ms. D really helped me with that. I honestly think I passed because of her.”
Strebig took classes in science, social studies, math and language and prepared to take the GED tests.
“I was so nervous. I took the pretest and failed and that had me scared,” she said.
In December, days before the end of the year and the switch to a new form of GED testing, Strebig took her final test and waited eagerly to hear the results.
And finally, she learned her scores – she’d passed.
“I was so excited,” Strebig said. “There were times when it was very frustrating, but it was worth it in the end to me.”
In August, Strebig plans to enroll in the early childhood program at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast – just down the road from her family.
She’ll take classes for a couple years, then transfer to IPFW, she said.
Strebig hopes to become an elementary school teacher and help young students understand that all should be treated equally.
“I want to help people. And I want to teach kids about disability and help them understand that we are not different just because we have a disability,” she said.
But in her success, Strebig said she’ll never forget those who made it possible – her families at home and at Anthis that made sure she would meet her goal.
“They fought for me so hard,” she said. “I think people go into the GED program are those who most want (an education). And then when you find these people who are striving to help make sure you pass, it’s a lot easier.”