“We are changing lives, changing our communities, and changing our economy—one educational success at a time.”

Ron Stefanski hit the ground running when he was named Chief Business Development Officer for ed2go in June of 2012. A division of Cengage Learning, ed2go is a leading provider of online courses for adult and continuing education students with over 2 million students enrolled in various courses.

When he joined ed2go, the company had recently forged a partnership with Smart Horizons Career Online Education to launch the Bridge to Start online high school, an innovative program that serves people who are hindered in their goal of entering post-secondary programs due to lack of a high school diploma. Through hybrid learning labs set up on participating college campuses across the country, students are able to earn both a high school diploma and a credentialed career certificate—simultaneously. They can then go on to enroll in a post-secondary program to further their educational and career goals.

“Bridge to Start offers a unique opportunity to minimize the barriers to education, expanding and improving the way education is delivered,” Stefanski said. “Education is the great equalizer, and Dr. Howard Liebman [CEO and Superintendent of Smart Horizons Career Online Education] has created an inspiring way to bring it to a community of adults who previously didn’t think educational attainment was possible for them.”

Stefanski, who brought over 30 years of experience in the education business to his position at ed2go, has always had a special passion to help at-risk youth through what he calls the “lifeline of education.”

“In a chaotic world with numerous day-to-day risks, education remains a huge game-changer,” he said. “Forty-five million people in this country are unable to advance their careers or pursue their dreams because they do not have a high school diploma. In my community, only 24 percent of 9th graders go on to graduate from high school. With the local unemployment rate being over 50 percent for those without a high school diploma, this is tantamount to a crisis. In this 21st-century job world, a high school diploma is the gateway to getting ahead—a starting point.”

Stefanski sees the unique opportunities offered by the Bridge to Start program as important in closing the education gap.

“When high school fails our students, we all fail, and the fabric of our community is stained,” he said. “Making education barrier-free is the answer. Our program eliminates or reduces so many barriers for those who previously have been failed by our educational system, and haven’t yet succeeded.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Stefanski says that 80 percent of those graduating from Bridge to Start are going on to pursue additional education, most of them on the campuses at which they complete the Bridge to Start program.

As of January 15, Bridge to Start has been implemented on 35 college campuses across the country. For Stefankski, the rapid growth of the program over the last six months suggests that for many Americans, “education really is the bridge to each individual’s unique hopes, goals, and dreams.”