GED graduation Many miles in life to arrive here

Published 4:50 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

It’s just a few steps to the Bainbridge College Admissions Office from the Charles H. Kirbo Center, scene of the GED graduation Thursday evening; but many of the graduates have gone many miles in life to arrive there.

This theme was echoed throughout the evening as the various student speakers told their “life stories” and the obstacles each had to overcome to arrive at the point of receiving a GED—the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Tom Wilkerson, Bainbridge College president, told the graduates their graduation was a wonderful achievement—but only the beginning.

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“You must continue the journey of discovery,” he said. Wilkerson pointed out BC Admissions Director Connie Snyder, in the audience, and advised that each graduate would receive a gift from the college at the end of the ceremony.

A living illustration of that message was keynote speaker Ruby Barlow, who told the graduates how she lost her job of 15 years when American Electric Company closed in 2002. At the age of 52 she found herself unemployed and without an education to find new work. She made the decision to get a GED, but she didn’t stop there. She began attending classes at Bainbridge College, obtained certification in computer science and began a new career at the college, first in the Technical Studies office as an assistant. She is now the program assistant for the Associate Degree in Nursing.

“Today and tomorrow are more important than yesterday,” Barlow advised the group.

Wilkerson referred to Barlow in his remarks as being very modest, saying she left out the fact that she had been a straight “A” student and selected as the academic achievement student representing the college in statewide competition.

Family achievement

There were four student speakers, each of whom gave powerful witness to the power and importance of education in their lives.

Angie Marie Stevens and Jimmie Louann Glisson are sisters from Decatur County who graduated together Thursday evening. They made the point they are the only two of six children in their family to achieve that goal.

“We have overcome a family curse,” said Glisson, who along with her sister expressed gratitude to God and the teachers who in the words of Stevens “made us all over-comers.”

Additional honors were bestowed on the two sisters when it was announced they were joint recipients of the special Directors Award, given to the student or students selected by the teachers as most demonstrating outstanding achievement and dedication.

Early County student speaker Yvette Bryant and Miller County student Nikillya Favors each told of their bitter disappointment when they failed to pass the state-required high school graduation test and were not permitted to graduate with their classmates.

Bryant credited the persistence of her mother, who would not allow her to have a pity party, but made her daughter aware of the GED classes, and drove her there every day.

Bryant earned her GED in October 2008 and is now enrolled on the BC Early County campus in the crime scene investigation study program.

Favors related she had been an excellent student with good grades in high school, but she too could not pass the required test. She promised her friends and family that one day she would graduate from high school.

“Now that I have passed the GED, I feel I can do anything, including passing the Georgia graduation test,” she said.

A total score needed to pass the GED is 2250. An honor graduate must score a total of 3000 or above.

Night of awards

Kay Lynn, director of adult education announced the 2008-09 graduation class had five honor graduates, three of whom were in attendance.

One student, Joshua Dellon Lynn, with a score of 3410, was awarded a plaque for having the highest score of all. He is currently enrolled at Bainbridge College.

GED Examiners Award recipients were Patricia Ann Buggs and Jennifer Caroline Perry. This award is given annually to the student, or students, who complete the course and examination while overcoming major obstacles or personal loss.

The coveted Jane Adams Long Memorial Award was presented to Juanita Davis. This award is given annually to the student who best exemplifies the qualities and traits of Long, an elementary teacher for 35 years who had a career in Adult Education from 1969 to 2003, the year of her death.

Each year there are family members who graduate together. This year was no exception. In addition to the two sister speakers, David Lee Chester, and his mother, Pamela Chester, of Seminole County were given recognition.

Debbie McIntyre, Decatur County director of the Certified Literate Community Program, acted as mistress of ceremonies. McIntyre and the program were given special recognition by Billie Izard, executive director of the Georgia CLCP, for achieving and surpassing the 10-year goal set when the program began.

Decatur County is now a Certified Literate Community that has served more than 3,800 people in adult education over the last 10 years.

The year of 2008-09 saw a total of 244 persons graduate with a GED. Of those, 95 were in corrections. GED classes are taught in Decatur, Early, Miller and Seminole counties.

Following the graduation ceremony, a reception hosted by the Bainbridge Rotary Club was held in the atrium of the Kirbo Center.

The Adult Education Program is a partnership with the Decatur County Schools, Bainbridge College, the Decatur County CLCP, LIFE, Decatur County Correctional Institute, County Commission, Bainbridge-Decatur County Council for the Arts, USDA Rural Enterprise Grant, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church English as a Second Language classes and the Bainbridge Rotary Club.