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Karla’s Story

Karla showing off her hard-earned diploma with Anishah Cumber, her AFC attorney.

In 2008, Karla was only two credits away from receiving her high school diploma. Despite her learning disability, Karla had avidly pursued, and successfully completed, the coursework she needed to graduate high school with a local diploma, with the exception of these two missing credits. Instead of allowing her to continue her plan of study, however, her high school pushed Karla out and convinced her to settle for an IEP diploma. An IEP diploma is intended only for students with the most significant disabilities, in recognition of a student’s successful achievement of the individualized educational goals set out in his or her IEP. An IEP diploma is not a standards-based diploma: it is not recognized in New York State as equivalent to a regular high school diploma and is often not accepted by employers, the military, business/trade schools, apprenticeship programs, or institutions of higher education.

Unfortunately, Karla did not realize what this meant for her future, or that an IEP diploma would not allow her to go to college, until she tried to enroll in an EMT program at CUNY and was turned away. At that point, Karla, who was 26 years old and working to support her own family, reached out to Advocates for Children of New York for help. AFC staff attorney Anishah Cumber reviewed her case and began fighting for Karla to be given back the opportunities that were taken from her when she was denied the chance to finish her credits and obtain her local diploma. After months of advocating to Karla’s old high school, the superintendent, and administrators at the Department of Education’s central office, AFC was able to negotiate a successful result: Karla could complete portfolios to make up her missing credits in exchange for her local diploma! Thanks to AFC, Karla’s earning potential has risen exponentially and she will be able to pursue her dreams. Congratulations, Karla!