Omega School Is Making Lemonade From the Pandemic's Lemons

omega school graduation fall 2020 Madison Gives
Since 1972, Omega School has provided individualized instruction to help adults prepare for, and obtain, a GED/HSED credential. 

By Oscar Mireles, Executive Director of Omega School

Like everyone in this pandemic, Omega School has worked creatively to meet its mission, not only continuing to provide services to students looking to get their GED or HSED, but getting stronger.

We have succeeded by implementing a few key strategies:

Be nimble and flexible

Since Omega School started almost 50 years ago, it has focused on preparing young adults who have dropped out of high school to earn a GED/HSED credential. And while each student reaches the decision to pursue GED studies in their own way, being stuck at home during the pandemic spurred a number of them to start now.

For the staff at Omega School, this meant quickly creating a virtual on-boarding enrollment system that was both personal and individualized. Fortunately, Omega School was well-positioned to move to virtual learning. When the GED test became a computer-based exam in 2014, we saw the benefit of having an on-line option for students who are homebound with mobility challenges or severe anxiety.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, this experience with on-line learning helped us move quickly. We purchased additional student seats on our current platform, and secured access to two additional learning platforms which, combined with a pencil and paper format, allowed us to keep our GED training individualized. Being able to maintain this flexibility has meant success for the pandemic-enrolled students who have completed their GED/HSED diplomas.

Build on a strong base

MCF and its fundholders have provided key financial support. Throughout the pandemic, we have received regular distributions from our endowment fund, and we have received gifts from donor advised funds through MCF. In early 2020 A Fund for Women provided a grant for outreach to young mothers, and MCF gave Omega School a Community Impact grant that helped us develop and deliver online tutoring. This financial support has provided a critical lifeline during these challenging times.

Omega School secured more than $150,000 in working capital from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) aid programs, which put us in an excellent financial position to weather the challenges of COVID-19.

Make the best of the cards you have been dealt

We are taking advantage of the school being physically closed to students. At the beginning of the pandemic, I did some spring cleaning and was able to shred 25 years’ worth of paperwork and files. This has cleared out space that will be needed as we undertake renovations to our 28-year-old facility. We jumpstarted our capital campaign so we could do the work while the building was already closed, and hope to start renovations later this fall. Because we remain closed due to the pandemic, the work will not interfere with our students’ progress.

Make lemonade

Thanks to a supportive Board of Directors, our dedicated and hardworking staff, and supporters such as MCF and its fundholders, we have been able to move our organization forward and make lemonade for our students and our community.

Learn more about Omega School and the work it does to help adults improve their job prospects through education.

Read more Stories of Impact. 

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