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Family and career dreams inspire HSED graduate and NICC pre-nursing student

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Savannah Malli news photoFamily and life circumstances, coupled with time at home during COVID-19, inspired Savannah Malli to take the first step in her college career.

Before she could begin college, however, Savannah needed to earn a high school diploma. Her grandmother recommended Northeast Iowa Community College, where she had completed the High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) program herself.

“I have always wanted to feel accomplished for earning my GED, but never truly knew what I wanted to do afterwards. In January 2019, my daughter ended up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after I had her, and that was the moment I knew what I wanted to do; to become a nurse in the NICU!” Savannah said.

The COVID-19 environment in 2020 offered more time at home and the College’s pivot to 100 percent online learning was a perfect fit.

“The online option helped me so much. I was able to stay home with my kids, save on gas money and childcare, and do my assignments on my own time, which really played a big role in graduating. Sarah Beaman, my college and career coach, zoomed with me twice a week to make sure I was understanding the HSED material. I couldn’t have completed the program without her,” she said.

Although Savannah had struggled with math in school and tried to complete the HSED several times with no success, the extra one-on-one personal attention made a huge difference. “Sarah taught me in a way I can actually understand and pushed me to reach my goal. She believed in me the whole time, she never let me give up,” Savannah expressed.

After earning the HSED last year, Savannah started taking her nursing program prerequisites in January 2021. She completed the courses successfully and is eager to begin the Practical Nursing program at NICC.

“I began college thinking I was going to get my R.N., but so far I have enjoyed school so much that I’ve actually thought about going further. No matter what, though, my dream is to work in the NICU,” she said.

Sarah Beaman believes Savannah’s persistence and openness to learning on Zoom during the pandemic made the difference in her success.

“Savannah, like many students, let me know she didn't think she would be able to make it through the math portion of the HiSET, but she trusted me that I could help her understand, worked hard and balanced her studies with her home life to make it work. Savannah was my first ‘new’ student during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she was my guinea pig in figuring out how to do testing, how to present and teach math over zoom. She was up front and honest with me about how she was feeling during the whole process which made it much easier to help and encourage her to persist through to graduation. She has now been accepted to the nursing program and has even helped other nursing students in dosage calculations!” she said.

Students who were previously homeschooled or did not receive a high school diploma, may enroll in classes to earn a high school equivalency diploma at one of several locations throughout northeast Iowa. For more information about Adult Education options at NICC, visit