Tricia George went from having Es in school to straight As when she came to the Alternative Education Program at the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen.
She had attended Homestead-Wakefield Elementary and Bel Air Middle and High schools before transferring to the CEO in 11th grade.
George had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), wasn’t good at tests or classwork and was fighting, she said after graduating from the CEO Friday morning.
“They made me feel special [here,]” George said. “I was able to connect with the teachers. They would hear me out, my struggles.”
She and 10 other students received their high school diplomas during a Friday’s ceremony.
Other members of the Class of 2019 are Julio Brodie, Brianna Hall, Demon Harris Jr., Zakarie Hieroniumus, Alyssa Katsafanas, Jacob Kuegler, Monika Rojas, Malcolm Stokes, Anthony Wachter and Knowledge Wallace.
For George, it was better to be in the smaller environment. Others were there for different reasons — family problems, anger, poor attitudes — and they were leaving as graduates.
“To my Class of 2019, always have the courage to go for what you want in life and start over if you need to,” George told her classmates.
She sat with her friend Monika Rojas before the ceremony started.
“It’s very exciting,” Rojas, who wants to go to school to become a dentist, said. “It’s an accomplishment. Not everyone gets to do this.”
Hieroniumus, who’s been at the CEO for a year, said he was excited and ready to graduate.
“It’s been difficult. I’ve had my downs, my lows and my ups,” Hieroniumus said. “It’s over now, I’m not complaining. I’m done!”
He’s uncertain of what’s next, but hopes to work with his dad selling cars in Frederick.
Principal Erica Harris, who has been at CEO for three years, said Friday’s graduation was a chance to support the young men and women as they begin their adult lives.
“This ceremony is a reminder it’s not what happens to us but how you react that defines us, that never circumstances nor people’s opinions of us defines us, that everyone makes mistakes but those mistakes do not define us,” Harris said. “Perseverance, growing, changing are what define us.”
Laurie Namey, supervisor of equity and cultural proficiency, told the students she is proud of them, that their education journey means something to them.
“There may be some of you that thought the day would never come, but here you are, despite anything you have faced, you have bounced back, rose again and proved to all of us that adversity paves the road to greatness,” Namey said.
They have proven they are capable, strong and smart, she said, “and you didn’t come this far just to come this far.”
Namey encouraged the students to explore careers in education.