May 23, 2011

GED Graduates in cap and gown.
Pictured are the 2011 GED graduates. The program graduated 80 students this year. (Callie Jones/Journal Advocate)

By Callie Jones Journal-Advocate staff writer

STERLING -- "Obtaining your GED is only a stepping stone along the path of lifelong learning." That was the message Kelli Reyes shared with the graduates of the GED program at Northeastern Junior College on Saturday.

A total of 80 students received their general equivalency diplomas this year, 46 of those students were at the ceremony.

The celebration started with a welcome from Misti Lauer, coordinator of the Adult Basic Education program at NJC.

"We have a really academically-achieving class of graduates sitting before you right now," she said.

Martha Flores, a Spanish GED instructor, welcomed family and guests in Spanish.

Following an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance by Savannah Heading, Reyes, who is lead GED instructor and served as keynote speaker for the ceremony, congratulated the students on their accomplishments.

"I am so proud," she said. "Many of you may have come to our program in a shadow of doubt. Perhaps you were told you weren't good at math; you couldn't write a sentence let alone an essay; you wouldn't succeed at school.""Look at you now; you've earned your GED credentials."

Reyes noted that 40 percent of high school graduates would not past the GED tests.

"We all have dreams for ourselves and our families but it takes courage and determination to put the plans together that are necessary to make those dreams actually real," she said.

"When today's celebration is over, I hope you continue to build on that success and recognize that if you can achieve this, what's stopping you from doing anything you want to do."

Reyes told the graduates that going to college is not only possibility, but it can also be a reality.

"You can do anything you put your mind to. You turned thought into action, pursued your diploma and now you must walk across the stage and into a brighter future," she said.

Special guest speaker 2011 GED graduate Freddie Wrightsil also shared some words of encouragement with his fellow graduates.

"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last," he said. "They gave us the tools, now its up to us to use them, go out and succeed."Following his speech, special awards were given to 12 students who were inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society and 15 students who achieved scores in the top 10 percent nationwide on any of the five GED tests.

Once the awards were presented, Andy Long, director of new student enrollment/admissions, talked about higher education opportunities.

"All of you are writing your own life story, and every day the choices that you make describe the next chapter of what your life's really going to look like," he told the graduates.

Long talked about how a good story requires a hero, an exciting event, interesting scenes, conflicts and a conclusion.

"You reached a mini-conclusion right now by being here as a GED graduate," he said. "This is just the end of the beginning, your main story starts here."

"Every day you have a choice. You made some good choices to be here today. Continue it on, write the next challenge, write the next chapter and create your own great story."

Leslie Helfer, NJC's college and career navigator, encouraged the graduates to think about what their next step is, what their next goal is, and to come and see her and let her help them find those goals.

Following her presentation a slideshow of this year's graduates played and then it was time for them to take their walk across the stage.

After certificates were presented, Santana Bird gave the benediction to close the ceremony.

This year's graduates included: Heather Adams, Fernando Alarcon Ruiz, Everett Anderson, Ray Aragon, Francisco Arenivas, Velia Arenivaz, Steven Arfsten, Santana Bird, Mark Chavez, Chad Cordova, Javier Cordova, Jeremiah Cranwell, Heather Davis, Brittney Dekruif, Dale Ebersole, Yesenia Estrada, Felipe Estrada-Vasquez, Kevin Foos, Erik Foley, Cory Forbes, Christina Fulton, Brittney Garett, Philip Gemaehlich, Justin Gnadt, Rocio Gonzalez Vallejo, Savannah Heading, Drew Henry, Knatasha Hughes, Jack Jacobs, Barbara Knight, Brandon Knutson, Shelby Koch, Amanda Loos, Amber Manheim, Kevin Manzo, Bertha Medellin Duron, Sergio Miramontes, Christopher Mora, Aleenna Moreno, Ashley Mulleniz, Karla Munoz Ramirez, Claudia Nevarez, Joelee Pal, Casey Pearman, Miguel Perez, Orlanda Prentice, Adilene Ramirez, Brandon Reed, Joseph Rossen, Lynn Sator Denise Simpson, Savannah Stallings, Zak Stalling, Lucas Stoneking, Kelsey Swingle, Salvador Vazquez, Miachael Veendaal, Freddie Wrightsil and Fidel Zebadua Mendoza.