I have tremendous respect for folks who go back to school to earn a graduate equivalency diploma.
For many, life circumstances have made it difficult to stay in school, and they have gone to the Adult Education Center to get back on track. Many are working and going to school, others are single parents who want to build a better life for themselves and their children.
What many folks don't know is that 40 percent of students who earn a high school diploma cannot pass the GED test. This is no easy way out.
On Friday, the Adult Education Center honored 39 of its students who passed the GED with a graduation ceremony at Fort Lewis College. (The school will graduate a similar number of students in June.)Stephanie Moran, a GED teacher and team leader, told me that 21 of the graduates were able to attend. A number of them took the opportunity to thank those who had helped them on the journey, including family members and teachers and staff at the center.
The GED exam includes five tests, including math, reading and social studies. A perfect score would be 4,000. Those who achieve at least 3,000 are named to the 3000 Club and the National Adult Education Honor Society. (They rank in the top 16 percent of those who pass the GED exam, which is the equivalent of the top 10 percent in a traditional graduating class.)The 3000 Club honorees were Nora Richards, Jessica Ring, Marcus Tucson, Alanna Weishel, Tyler Whitt and Cara Yengich.
The center also honors those who had regular attendance, were cooperative, showed personal initiative and overcame significant personal challenges to earn their GEDs. This year's honorees were Andrea Luna, Di'ette Schweyer and Frank Stimac. All three of these students had achieved success against all odds. One came to the center five years ago unable to read and now reads flawlessly, having completed the first book ever last year. Another had suffered through a personal tragedy and the third, a more mature student, had struggled with one particular test but persevered and passed.
They also were inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society. High Noon Rotary Club sponsored all of the honor society inductees.
Krystal Price, who represents the students on the AEC's board spoke, as did Chessa Gill, who also sits on the board. Gill congratulated the graduates, but reminded them that the GED is just a stepping stone to achieving their personal goals.
Two organizations have been long-time supporters of the graduates, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post No. 4031, and the Kiwanis Club of Durango. They give each graduate a medal honoring their achievements.
Fred Riedinger with the VFW has faithfully attended every graduation in recent years. Riedinger noted in his remarks that it's possible to graduate from high school unable to read well and do mathematics, but it's impossible to earn a GED without excellent skills.
This graduation also saw a bumper crop of scholarships. They were donated by Clark Behner of Madera Construction, Karen and Mark Zempel, Jim and Bridget Irish, Sandy and Michael Bruce, Cathy and Rich Gaskell and staff member Nan Uhl.
Scholarship recipients were Bruce LaBarthe, Sahara Mendez, Kristin Price, Mercedes Villano, Alicia Ramos and Angelina Lovato.
Congratulations to all of the graduates.
These folks can choose to celebrate their birthdays in a variety of ways, from competing in foosball and indoor golf tournaments to an elegant tasting of wines and cheeses - Ian Phillips, Butch Keller, Will Albert, John Anderson, Dona Anderson, Nick McCoola, Kim Todd, Kristin Conn, Stacy Mae Pettingill, LeRoy Williamson, Chris Howe, Jake Siekman, Katy Watt, Scott Cheesewright, Tammy Honold, Aurora Rose, Peryl Schaaf, Katherine Campana, Anne Dickson, Don Anderson, Luis Marquez, Cece Evans and Jerry Wood.
(Actually, the rest of us can celebrate during Snowdown too, even if it's not our birthdays.)
Kudos go out to another group of area young people. They have been selected by La Plata Electric Association to participate in the National Rural Electric Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. The tour is also hosted by The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Zeb Cyr of Bayfield, Anthony Porambo of Ignacio and Megan Bryant of Pagosa Springs will join juniors from LPEA's sister electric co-ops across Colorado for an intimate look at the nation's capitol and government from the inside.
Of course, the theme of the trip will be electrical power, which has become a major issue on the national agenda as America works toward energy independence. The students will explore issues with national and state representatives that the electrical industry is confronting.
Fortunately, the trip also will include some social activities, so the week won't be all business. It will take place from June 11 to 18.
To be selected, all of the students filled out an application and had to write essays on any aspect of the electric industry. The applications were judged anonymously by an independent committee.
Cyr, a junior at Bayfield High School wrote, " ... While we may currently think that the uses we have found for (electricity) as of now are numerous, our descendants will most likely look back on this time period ... and wonder how we got by ... "
Porambo, a junior at Ignacio High School, thinks we take electricity for granted.
" ... What many people fail to realize is where electricity comes from and what energy sources have helped the electric-utility industry produce electric energy for the whole world," he wrote.
Bryant, a junior at Pagosa Springs High School, is concerned about keeping energy as green as possible.
" I believe that it is important for humans to resort to more renewable energy resources ... so we can help ensure the healthy existence of Earth," she wrote.
LPEA likes to send one student from each municipality in its service area. No students from Durango applied for the 2009 tour.
Applications for the 2010 Youth Tour will be available in November through LPEA or from area high school counselors. Home-schooled students also are eligible.
Enjoying anniversaries fit for a pharaoh are LeRoy and Ellen Williamson, John and Beth White and Howard and Karen Preston.
For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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