High school graduation came about 17 years late for Lloyd and Tammy Poates of Union Bridge, but not too late for the couple to celebrate their joint success. Nor for their two children to share in their pride. They were among some 100 adults who received diplomas from Carroll County's Alternative Program in graduation ceremonies held last week at Westminster High School.
Some completed their secondary education through the General Equivalency Diploma program, studying traditional academic courses and taking a comprehensive eight-hour final exam.
That's what Mr. Poates did, achieving the milestone after dropping out of school in the eighth grade to pursue a career in carpentry and construction. A couple of serious accidents convinced him that he should get his diploma and look for a different job. He had tried night school, but could not stick with it, with a wife and two daughters and full-time work.
But a year ago, the two parents made a joint decision to earn their diplomas and to improve their prospects for employment.
Mrs. Poates chose the External Diploma program that emphasizes life experiences as a learning tool. She met weekly with an instructor over the year to study various homemaking skills and job preparation tasks, while improving her abilities in the basic subjects of reading, writing and math.
"It's a well-rounded program," said the enthusiastic new graduate. "I think it's great for girls now that do have small children; it didn't exist when I needed it." She had dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to care for her eldest daughter.
Their experience and determination in returning to school to earn belated diplomas serves as an encouraging example for many others who have similarly dropped out and have felt that it is too late to do anything about it.
The success of Mr. and Mrs. Poates underlines changes in public education that afford alternatives for older students, such as the External Diploma program, and assistance such as the day care center for school-age mothers at Westminster High.
As we congratulate the graduates of the Class of '95, let's salute the accomplishments of older students who show that education is always a goal worth pursuing.