Although she believed firmly in the value of a good education and always planned to finish high school and attend college, Michelle DeIulio says she discovered at an early age that traditional school just didn’t work for her.
For a time, the Bethel native attended a small alternative school in her community. After that school closed, rather than return to public school, she completed her GED through the MSAD 44 Adult Education program.
As a teenager, she was already living on her own and supporting herself by working in various local restaurants. DeIulio enjoyed the work and began to dream of one day owning her own café but also wanted to explore other career options.
“I see many motivated students, but not a lot who end up running a business. I was impressed with how goal oriented Michelle has been all her life,” says Lois Ruff, the director of MSAD 44 Adult Education program. The first time she attempted college, she found she wasn’t quite ready, so she returned to Adult Ed to brush up on her skills and get help with coursework. After considering majors in the mental health and nursing fields, she graduated in 2012 with an associate degree in liberal studies.
Goals were accomplished in 2014, when DeIulio and business partner Dara Turgeon joined forces to buy The Local Hub, a market offering local and natural foods in Greenwood. They have since expanded the market and added a bakery and a popular café with both eat-in and take-out service.
With a continued focus on locally-produced goods, the business partners work with 40 different vendors offering products ranging from farm-fresh vegetables and eggs to artwork and crafts. “Even our cleaning products are made by a Maine company,” says DeIulio.
Running the business is hard work, but she is proud of its place in the local economy, filling the demand for local products and providing six to seven full and part-time jobs. “It’s better than what we could have imagined it to be,” she says.
Now that DeIulio is running her own business, she appreciates the math courses required for her degree, and says she wishes she had taken some accounting courses, too. But, she adds, “I still haven’t used imaginary numbers yet!”
DeIulio may not be considered a typical Adult Ed student, but in fact, she represents about 60 percent of the Adult Education population. “Students come to us with the realization that not having a high school credential is keeping them from something they want to do. After finishing their high school credential, these students move quickly into college and a better job. This group is highly motivated and seem to work to find ways to overcome challenges that might derail others, such as childcare and lack of time due to busy work schedules,” says Ruff. “Through high school completion, college preparation, and support while in college, we are happy to be here, to not only help students like Michelle, but to help all students as they work toward their goals.”
Adult Education Instructor Amy Wight Chapman assisted with this story. Photos courtesy of Lois Ruff.