In June, many accolades go to high school graduates -- as well they should. But recently, about 50 former high school dropouts donned caps and gowns at Choffin Career and Technical Center and finished what they started. Having passed an eight-hour battery of tests, they were awarded their General Educational Development (GED) diplomas, essentially finishing high school. An additional 100 also earned GEDs and were listed in the awards ceremony program, but didn't attend.
They should have. Congratulations were due. Thirty percent of graduating high school seniors can't pass the test. Ninety-six percent of employers accept it as equivalent to a high school diploma. Ninety-three percent of colleges and universities accept it.
Every recipient had a different reason for being there. Some were rosy-cheeked teens. At least one had watched her children graduate high school before her.
Finally passed: The evening of the commencement, which included awards for other Adult Basic and Literacy Education program participants, three students gave speeches. They were so eloquent, I'll let them speak for themselves.
"When I passed my GED test, I never thought I would be telling people about it," Margaret Bailey, 66, said from the podium. "But now that I passed, I feel elated. It makes me feel so good from trying so hard that I do want to tell my story."
"I wanted my GED for a long time. I took the test before, but I failed because I didn't study. I tried going to classes, but the classes I went to were mostly young people and I felt uncomfortable in their presence, so I would quit."
Bailey said she was then inspired by a woman who earned her GED after watching the GED Program on Channel 45/49.
"I started watching the program twice a week and liked it," she said. "I sent for the books and worked on them at home. ... I worked on this for about a year until I felt comfortable with what I learned."
"Then, I enrolled at the GED class at Potter's Wheel. The teacher [Mrs. Christine Stevens] helped me ... and encouraged me ... I took [the test] in February ... When I got my results, I was elated!"
Doors opening: A second graduate strode to the podium, his plaster board hat tipped back on his head. Andy Gibson bent down to the mike and spoke. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me get here," he said. "... I want to congratulate all my fellow graduates here tonight on a job well done. You have worked hard to get here. And to those of you who haven't graduated yet, keep trying until you succeed. But don't stop there. Go on to college, a vocational or trade school to continue your education."
"Not everyone realizes how important a good education is. ... Now, with this diploma, anything is possible. All the doors are now open. With my foot in the right direction and following the right path, I can now step forth through the best door: the door of opportunity..."
Special occasion: Maxine Kuzan, slight and curly-headed, rested a sheet of notebook paper on the podium. "... This is a very special occasion to all of us," she said. "I am a 47-year-old mother who raised six children and nine grandchildren. I finally accomplished something that took 15 years to achieve: my GED. That is definitely a long term goal. I attended classes at Choffin Adult Basic Literacy Education or ABLE as we call it.
"Thank you to all the dedicated teachers, especially those who went the extra mile for someone. Thank you to my children for letting me see how important our education is. ... And to all family and friends who have inspired me. And I give glory and honor to Jesus Christ. ...
"I would like to leave four words to those who are striving towards a better education. You can make it!"
I'd also like to add, to the graduates, don't stop now.