Members of Carroll Community College's Adult Education Program took the stage in front of family and friends Friday evening as they received their diplomas and prepared for their next steps into the world.

The program is designed for adult learners who seek to earn a diploma from the national External Diploma Program or take the General Education Development exam. At the event, 11 of the program's 28 students gathered together in front of a crowd of professors, family members, friends and supporters to acknowledge and celebrate their hard work.

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According to Raiana Mearns, manager of the Adult Education Program, the adult classes are vital for any community.

"We have people who haven't graduated with a high school diploma and want one," Mearns said. "It's important for career choice. When you go to apply for jobs, there's always a question asked, 'Do you have a high school diploma or GED?' Well, thanks to this program, they have it in their pocket to say, 'Yes, we do.' "

The program is grant funded through the state and federal government, which means students can attend classes for free. The only charge for students, according to Mearns, are the costs of books if they choose to purchase them, and a $45 fee for the GED exam.

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Student Nicole Diamantopoulos, of Upperco, was one of the student speakers for the evening. Diamantopoulos discussed her challenges in high school with a learning disability in math. After dropping out in 1991, a year before graduation, she began working in home renovation and the arts. She said it was her wife who encouraged her to go back to school.

"My wife had gotten her GED when she was 40, and she encouraged me to sign up for some adult education," Diamantopoulos said. "I gave up in 1991. I thought I didn't need a degree. If I could, I would have told myself to just get it over with, it's not a big deal."

Diamantopoulos said she focused on her math studies, but also learned skills she never expected to need in life, like computer research and how to create PowerPoint presentations.

Westminster resident Sandy Chieffo also spoke about her experiences working to achieve her diploma. She said when she started this journey, dropping out of school was one of the greatest regrets of her life. Today, she said, she's not sure what route she wants to take, but is thankful for her diploma for giving her the options to make that choice.

"I knew having my diploma would open doors to many more opportunities as well as act as a stepping stone to where I wanted to be."



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