BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Overcoming the odds. A mother of seven who grew up in Baltimore City’s low income housing proves that dreams do come true.

Jessica Kartalija reports she has a diploma to prove it.

A math equation, adding up to a better life. Anne Schroth is board president of the South Baltimore Learning Center–a nonprofit organization that provides adult learners with everything from basic education to GED classes.

“Life happens to people–either they have family issues or health issues, job issues–so for a number of people, they have to start and stop and restart,” said Schroth.

Forty-year-old Michelle Commodore, a married mother of seven, knows this firsthand.

“Sometimes when I would speak to them about going to high school, I would feel like a hypocrite because I hadn’t completed my own high school,” she said.

So she decided to do just that, and got even more than she bargained for.

“It’s not just about getting your high school diploma, but when you leave here, you have the confidence to feel like I could go to a community college or I could go to a trade and further my education,” said Commodore.

Unfortunately, graduation rates at Baltimore City schools are below the national average.

High school dropouts earn–on average–just over $18,000, while graduates and those with a diploma make more than $26,000.

“You make so many mistakes in your life and you can’t go back and fix it. This program gives you the opportunity to go back and fix that,” Commodore said.

Commodore says the program was flexible and affordable, and she finished in just seven months.

“It feels like a new start at life, a chance to go back and do something I thought I would never have the chance to do,” she said.

Ten graduates and 225 learners will be recognized in a special ceremony on July 1.

More than 1,000 students ages 16 through 70 attend the South Baltimore Learning Center every year.

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