The path to a high school diploma might have been a little different for these students, but they got there all the same. Northeastern Junior College’s Adult and Community Education Program recognized five GED graduates at a commencement ceremony Saturday.
The ceremony started with the graduates proceeding into the Hays Student Center Tennant Art Gallery to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance,” followed by a welcome from Jamie Giacomini, Director of the ACE program at NJC. She told the graduates to take pride in having accomplished a major goal.
“It is not an easy decision to go back to school as an adult; oftentimes our adult education students are balancing full-time jobs, second jobs and families, on top of their education. This year added extraordinary circumstances to an already challenging decision,” Giacomini said, telling the graduates “I want to recognize your accomplishments this year and I hope to convey the enormity of your determination. You demonstrated incredible grit, perseverance and dedication to your education this year and proved to yourself, your family and this community, that you can accomplish great things no matter the circumstances.”
After an invocation by Marylu Smith-Dischner, Yuma site coordinator, and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Bradyn Hansen, son of graduate Wesley Horton, special remarks were given by Linda Merkl, NJC Vice President of Academic Affairs. She spoke about life and how it comes in chapters, some of which are long and painful, while others are short and full of excitement, but all of them add to your book.
“Your book, your life will be full of failures and successes. It is not one failure or one success that defines you, it’s all of these put together that make you who you are,” Merkl told the graduates, encouraging them to take time to celebrate the successful chapter they just completed, but also to think about what their next step looks like.
She spoke about her own chapters of failure: being clumsy as a child, not being a stellar student in school, dropping out of college three times before earning her first degree. Merkl noted each of those failures and almost failures increased her own self-confidence, as she was able to get up and start again, eventually going on to complete a doctorate degree.
“My wish for each of you is that you know enough failure to make those successes so very sweet, that with each success you learn a little bit more about who you are and that when you look back on your chapters, whether good or bad, you smile because you know how far you’ve come,” she told the graduates.
After a slideshow of the graduates, special remarks were given by NJC President Jay Lee. He shared a quote by Thomas Paine, who in 1776 said, “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph,” and told the graduates they’ve done something great, but their road doesn’t stop with this accomplishment and they will be faced with more hard tasks in the future.
“I’m going to ask you to celebrate this accomplishment today, but to also think about the future, tomorrow or the next day, what will be the next conflict, the next challenge, or the next hard thing that you will do? And know that you are capable of doing whatever it is because you have learned from this challenge, from this conflict, this hard thing,” Lee told the graduates.
It was then time to present the certificates to each of the graduates. Once the certificates were handed out and tassels flipped, and a benediction was given by Cathy Fisher, ABE/ESL instructor in Sterling, the graduates receded out of the room and onto the next chapter of their lives.
The 2021 GED graduates are: Wesley Horton, Rikki Lambert, Carter Magelssen, Devon Strobel and Zachary Thompson.
This class marks the final graduates to take courses at the ACE program’s current location on campus. This month the program is moving to Knowles Hall on NJC’s main campus, a move that came about because NJC wanted to provide space for the new daycare that will be opening in Sterling.
“We are thrilled to be able to have our GED and English Language students closer to the ‘action’ so to speak by integrating our program into the heart of the campus,” Giacomini said.
With this move, the program has been fortunate to get a fast-track to the top of the list for updating all of its technology.
“Our new space will feature some of the latest classroom technology which will take our already successful program to the next level and continue to increase our capacity for delivering excellent distance learning to students everywhere in our service region,” Giacomini said. “As the only GED and English language program in our service region, we are very excited to welcome our students back to full in-person learning in our new space this fall!”
The program will also continue to offer distance learning options for students who may prefer distance learning or need remote options due to transportation.
In addition to free adult education classes, ACE will continue to offer free childcare for adult education students while they are attending classes with the program. Giacomini said they have a highly trained early childhood instructor that will provide literacy-focused education to children ages three to eight years old during the hours their parents or legal guardians are in adult education classes.
“We will be working on settling into our new space this month to get everything ready for a great 2021 academic year!” Giacomini said.