As the notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” echoed through the theater Friday evening, Oct. 11, a class of 40 students processed in and prepared to receive their high school diploma.
Ranging in age from late-teens to 50s, the nontraditional students all took classes through Carroll Community College’s Adult Education Program in order to prepare for the GED exam. This program is offered free to adults 18 years and older at Carroll.
Libby TrostIe, the school’s vice president Continuing Education and Training gave the keynote at the Diploma Recognition ceremony.
“One word comes to mind when I think about these graduates and their accomplishments, and that is perseverance,” she said.
Some of the graduates are English learners. Some completed classes while holding down jobs and meeting family commitments, she said. She said this graduation was special to her because she herself was a nontraditional learner who completed her bachelor’s degree alongside family and job obligations.
“Our ability and desire to learn has no expiration date,” she said.
Each graduate’s story is unique and she advised them to “Own your story. It’s yours. No one can take it from you.”
Two members of the class gave remarks to their peers and spoke about their own stories.
For Donald Barton, it was the encouragement of his partner Sarah and the desire to make a living with his brain as well as his hands that prompted him to seek further education. He has varied interests, he said, but found them difficult to pursue without a high school diploma. He found success in the program as the highest scorer on the GED exam, and he hopes to pursue a new career in medicine, science or technology.
Completing classwork after working all day was difficult, but, “Accept the challenge. You can do it,” he encouraged others.
For some, like Dawn Easterday, graduation was a family affair. As she graduated alongside her cousin Karen Burnside, their cheering section was loud and warm.
She left school to care for her daughters, and now with her diploma, she plans to follow them to Carroll Community College where she will pursue a business degree.
During the preparation process, her support system was vital to her, she said. She accomplished her goal with “a lot of family, friends, and support of teachers and classmates,” she said. “Everyone worked along with you, cheered you on."
Manager of the Adult Education Programs Raiana Mearns said Easterday did the same for others.
“She encouraged her family and fellow GED students to keep going and never stop trying,” she said.
Local officials celebrated with the graduates including county commissioners Eric Bouchat and Dennis Frazier and the Chief of Staff of the Maryland Department of Labor Sarah Beardsley.
There are four 10-week sessions of GED classes at Carroll. Some are held at the Family Support center in the mornings and children under 4 may be eligible for child care while parents are in class.
For those who want to continue their education at Carroll, “Our transitions navigator, Eileen Vozzella, works with students who have career or academic goals. She connects them to people on the Carroll Community College campus with knowledge of their prospective field,” Mearns said.
For the first time this year, an award of $100 toward books and materials will go to the first five students who enroll in career classes.