GED graduate Dustin Burney, right, of Cullman, receives his diploma from Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics during Thursday night’s ceremony at the Burrow Center.

HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State Community College’s Adult Education program conducted GED (general education development) graduation ceremonies Thursday night, recognizing the latest class set for new beginnings.

“Graduates, once you walk across this stage, life is forever changed. Please take this accomplishment and put it to work by encouraging the next person you know who is where you were a year ago. Challenge them to do what you accomplished,” said Wallace State Adult Education Director Kelley Jones. “I’m very proud of you and I know everyone here is as well. You not only changed your lives, but the lives of the generations coming after you.”

More than 80 individuals have graduated with a GED from Wallace State’s Adult Education program this year, including the group which participated in the commencement exercises at the Burrow Center.

Cullman’s Dustin Burney, 19, was among the graduates who completed his GED requirements in a span of a few months.

“It’s something I wanted to get done after I moved back to Alabama from Missouri. Once I got started in the program, I realized it was something I had to get done in order to better myself,” said Burney, who went to school at Addison before dropping out. “To have this diploma is awesome. A lot of people didn’t think I could do it, but here I am.”

As is the case with each GED graduating class, there was pure excitement and plenty of emotions on display in the Burrow Recital Hall, whether it was from the graduates or the friends and family assembled.

Stephanie Schrantz, 23, of Hanceville, was among the graduates who couldn’t hold back the tears, especially after she was awarded a scholarship from the Oden Scholarship Foundation.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to me,” Schrantz said. “I was completely blown away and surprised when they called my name as the (scholarship) recipient.”

Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics was among the college dignitaries to address the graduates and commended them for persevering through life and reaching their current milestone.

“Life happens. I think all of you know life happens. Something happened to keep these graduates from finishing 12th grade or from finishing their high school diploma. That was a dream deferred. Today is a dream achieved,” Karolewics said. “The beauty of a community college is that as members of a community we are here to offer opportunity, hope and access.  I commend you.  As the first graduating group under the new GED, you have demonstrated your commitment to excel at whatever you do.”

Within the past year, the GED test’s difficulty has been increased to a more strenuous level.

“This graduating class probably faced the biggest challenge of any before it. The test changed from a 10.9 grade level to a 12.9 grade level. It went from a paper and pencil test to a completely computerized test and included critical thinking skills, Common Core and career readiness aspects,” Jones said. “Our Adult Education teachers have been working hard the last two years to try to be ready for the revised test. They’ve been working nights, weekends and have pulled extra hours in the summer to get ready for it. We just hope these graduates will leave here and encourage someone else to enroll and get finished.”

David Walters, the Vice Chancellor of Adult Education and GED Testing for the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), was the keynote speaker. Walters, who has served in various educational roles for 24 years, praised the graduates for overcoming life’s obstacles in order to obtain their GED.

“Life threw you a curveball and you didn’t go the traditional route in high school. You got back into a program of study and you now have a high school equivalency degree. This is not easy. It’s very challenging, especially with the test really aligning more with college and career readiness standards. You can feel good about your accomplishments,” said Walters. “You’ve shown the world you have the skills and abilities to be successful at this level. I encourage you to go on to the next level. Take that next step because this is one step in a staircase of steps in life.”

Walters also urged the graduates to persuade others in their lives to enroll into an Adult Education program if they are without a high school diploma. Walters added that there are 470,000 Alabamians 18 or older who lack a high school diploma or GED.

Including Schrantz, five graduates were recognized for scholarships during the ceremony.

Nicholas Vargas was the recipient of the Hope House Scholarship.

Logan Wiggington earned a full-tuition scholarship from Wallace State, and Alyssa Yeatman and Cinda Simmons each received a scholarship from the Wallace State Future Foundation.

Each Wallace State Adult Ed graduate received a scholarship for one free community college class of their choice.

Wallace State Adult Education classes are taught free of charge on campus, online and at selected off-campus sites in Blount, Cullman, Morgan and Winston Counties. Off-campus sites include churches, community centers, correctional facilities and rehabilitation centers.

Students must be at least 17 years old and not enrolled in a K-12 program to register with the Adult Education program.

For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.

 

GED graduate Dustin Burney, right, of Cullman, receives his diploma from Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics during Thursday night’s ceremony at the Burrow Center.

GED graduate Dustin Burney, right, of Cullman, receives his diploma from Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics during Thursday night’s ceremony at the Burrow Center.

David Walters, the Vice Chancellor of Adult Education and GED Testing of the Alabama Community College System, was the GED graduation keynote speaker this year.

David Walters, the Vice Chancellor of Adult Education and GED Testing of the Alabama Community College System, was the GED graduation keynote speaker this year.

Logan Wiggington was among the top students in the graduating class, and he received a scholarship to Wallace State to further his academic career.

Logan Wiggington was among the top students in the graduating class, and he received a scholarship to Wallace State to further his academic career.

Stephanie Schrantz, center, had the Oden Family Scholarship bestowed upon her during Thursday’s graduation ceremony at Wallace State. Pictured with Schrantz is Carol and Jeremy Oden.

Stephanie Schrantz, center, had the Oden Family Scholarship bestowed upon her during Thursday’s graduation ceremony at Wallace State. Pictured with Schrantz is Carol and Jeremy Oden.

Kelley Jones is Wallace State’s Adult Education Director.

Kelley Jones is Wallace State’s Adult Education Director.

Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics addressed the graduates and their friends and families at the ceremony.

Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics addressed the graduates and their friends and families at the ceremony.

 

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Russell Moore

Staff Writer

Wallace State Community College

P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077

1-866-350-9722    256-352-8443 direct

256-339-2422 cell

Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu

 

Kristen Holmes
Communications & Marketing Director, and

Administrator, The Evelyn Burrow Museum

Wallace State Community College

801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077
E-mail: kristen.holmes@wallacestate.edu
Office: 256.352.8118 | Cell: 256.339.2519 | Toll Free: 866.350.9722