HANCEVILLE, AL – Stanley Crawford considered Thursday night’s GED (general education development) graduation ceremonies at Wallace State Community College a new beginning.
“I have a new lease on life,” said the 53-year-old Crawford, who moved to Hanceville from Texas nearly two years ago. “Earning this degree means so much. From here on out, it’s out with the old and in with the new.”
Crawford was among the more than 500 GED graduates to earn their diplomas through Wallace State’s Adult Education program this year, and the sheer excitement felt within the crowd at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre proved that the graduates echoed Crawford’s perspective.
Graduates like Jordan Ibrahim, 19, also from Hanceville.
“This is a special night. I dropped out of school when I was 15 because I had a child,” Ibrahim said. “I quickly realized it was going to be hard to take care of a kid without a high school diploma. Now, I’ve got it.”
The auditorium was filled to capacity on both levels with friends and family all recognizing and celebrating the journeys their respective loved ones took to earn their GEDs.
“I’m impressed tonight because you have done the one thing that makes a difference in your life and that is you persevered. You dropped out of high school for a reason. Life just happened. For some it happened worse and harder than for others, but you didn’t give up. Congratulations to you because you are here,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics during her address to the graduates.
“Tonight is a milestone. It’s a milestone in your journey because you can’t stop here. There are great jobs out there just waiting for you. By the year 2020 virtually all new jobs will require postsecondary education. Wallace State graduates command great salaries. You’ve got to continue to grow and move a little further down the line with a college education.”
Karolewics added that as a child she came from a divorced family and was raised by a mother who also dropped out of high school, but worked hard to raise her family. Karolewics recalled having been offered a job at a technical college in her hometown as a young adult.
A first generation college student, Karolewics said, “My life changed forever the day I was employed at the local college, and today I am a college president,” she said. “You never know what’s possible. Your only limitations are those you impose upon yourself. So, I encourage you to dream and dream big. Don’t limit yourself.”
Wallace State Adult Education Director Kelley Jones welcomed the graduates and their families at the outset of the ceremony and said the 2014 graduating class has the largest number of students who are continuing their education at Wallace State. Graduates automatically receive a scholarship to cover the cost of their first class.
“This year’s class was a very energetic group. They faced a lot of challenges and had a lot of odds stacked against them, but they overcame it all. They stepped up to the plate and kept pushing,” said Jones after the ceremony.
Before receiving their diplomas, the graduates were treated to keynote speaker, Dr. Craig Boykin, an inspiring and entertaining author of “GED to PHD.” Boykin, a Montgomery native, shared his life’s experiences with the graduates, explaining details of the horrific scenes he had growing up while living in a broken home, to his academic struggles in school to sitting in jail one day after a handful of warrants, which made him realize he needed to make a permanent change in his life.
Boykin told the audience he failed his first attempt at obtaining his GED, but didn’t let that deter him from another attempt. Once he completed his GED, he went to Auburn University as a freshman at 23 years old and completed his bachelor’s degree in three years. He followed that by obtaining master degrees in theology and criminal justice from Faulkner University before earning his doctorate.
“It took me two tries to earn my GED and now I have two master’s degrees. I’m not any better than you. I could hardly read when I was 23 and now I’m in the process of completing my third book,” Boykin said.
Boykin, the Executive Director of United Dream Montgomery, expressed to the graduates that they have to desire something enough in life in order to obtain it and they have to embrace failure and seize the moment they are living in.
“A lot of people say failure isn’t an option. I say failure is your best option. You don’t learn from something when you succeed; you learn when you fail,” Boykin said. “You also need to seize the moment. Embrace it and use it as motivation for the next step.”
He also encouraged the graduates to use Thursday night’s graduation as a positive springboard to the rest of their lives.
“From this point on, don’t let anyone else dictate how your life goes. You write the ending to your own story. When you die, on your grave there is going to be a birthdate and end date and a dash in the middle. That dash is going to represent everything you did or did not do. I’m here to tell you to make that dash count,” Boykin said.
Four students were recognized with special scholarships during the ceremony.
Diana Miranda and Kynadi Hadley received renewable scholarships from Wallace State, Sandra Oden received a scholarship from the Oden Scholarship Foundation, and Dakota Hayes was the recipient of the scholarship from the Hope House in Oneonta.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
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