HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Christie Thomas, like many GED (general education development) graduates, let the smiles and tears of joy flow abundantly last week as a new class was recognized by the Wallace State Adult Education Department at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre.
“I don’t know how to put into words how much it means to hold this diploma. It’s one of the best days of my life next to my kids being born,” said Thomas, 33, a Hayden resident and mother of four.
Thomas was among 178 students to graduate from the Wallace State Adult Education program this year and among the students who chose to participate in commencement exercises.
Thomas, who dropped out of high school as a 16 year old because she was pregnant, also overcame a drug addiction in 2012 before enrolling in the Wallace State Adult Education program. In addition to receiving her diploma, Thomas earned the 2016 Hope House Scholarship, a $1,000 renewable scholarship for tuition and books bestowed upon a deserving Adult Education student from Blount County. She plans to enroll at Wallace State this fall.
As is the case with each GED commencement, there was pure excitement and raw emotions on display, whether it was from the graduates or the friends and family assembled.
“This was my 11th GED graduation to be a part of and each one is different. This was a special group of students. Their stories and diligence to finish their degrees made it special,” said Wallace State Adult Education Director Dr. Kelley Jones. “It was also a special year for our instructors. Watching the students cross the stage makes it even more special for our instructors.”
Jones, who welcomed the graduates and their families, added that 83 percent of Adult Education students eligible in this year’s class completed their GED and 27 percent of graduates are already enrolled in Wallace State classes this summer and more are expected to begin the fall. Adult Education instructors combined to teach 25,619 instructional hours over the last year.
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics was among the college dignitaries to address the latest Adult Education graduating class.
“You didn’t get to finish your high school class because it was a dream deferred. There are things that happen that cause us to defer our dreams. Tonight is about a dream recaptured. It’s the beginning of a new day. I’m glad you are here and I congratulate you for graduating,” Karolewics said.
Sherry Burns, a district judge in the Blount County District Court, was the event’s keynote speaker. She was appointed by former Governor Bob Riley in 2010 as the first female judge in Blount County history.
“It’s amazing what you guys have accomplished. I don’t know your stories, your history or why you are here. I wish I had the time to talk to each one of you,” Burns said. “To accomplish this task is something all of you should be extremely proud of. You have found a way to overcome your obstacles.”
Patrick Jimenez, 19, was another of Thursday’s graduates and entered the Adult Education program after being home schooled throughout his high school years. Jimenez, who plans to enroll at Wallace State and eventually apply for chiropractic school, credited the Adult Education instructors for inspiring him to fight through the math classes he struggled with.
A record seven scholarships were distributed at the ceremony.
Victoria Clark and Dalton Herfurth each received renewable scholarships from Wallace State, and Samantha Striker and Dominick Hunter each earned newly-established scholarships from the Wallace State Future Foundation.
Davon Beebe was the first-time recipient of the Janice Ryan Memorial Scholarship and William Ridgeway was the Oden Family scholarship recipient.
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 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. For more information about the Wallace State Adult Education program, visit www.wallacestate.edu/programs/adult-education
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