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Thirty-two graduated Tuesday from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education.
Staff photos by Michael G. Seamans
WATERVILLE - A few years ago, Bianca Curtis could not leave her home because she was so crippled by anxiety and depression, let alone attend high school.
But on Tuesday night, she stood before a crowd of 200 family members, friends and educators at the Mid-Maine Adult Community Education graduation ceremony, smiling, confident, radiant and proud.
Curtis, 22, of Waterville, was about to receive her high school diploma. But first, she gave a speech about how she dropped out of high school and last year decided to go back to school. She walked into the adult education office, not sure she would be able to hang in there.
She met Shawna Quimby, the adult education secretary, who was so kind and sweet to Curtis that she was convinced to stay. And she never looked back.
“They were very understanding,” Curtis said of the staff, before marching on Tuesday night into the Waterville Senior High School’s Trask Auditorium for graduation. “The people here are really amazing, supportive.”
Curtis took courses including history, science, English and computer science. She loved her teachers, including Ken Gagnon, who taught history, and Paula Raymond, who taught English.
“She was inspiring,” Curtis said. “That’s how I view her. The people here are really what helped me with my confidence. I would have never done this back in high school. I was the quiet girl in the corner, just reading a book.”
Curtis, who got a job at Integrated Sales Solutions in Fairfield while a student at adult education, plans to go on to college to study history and be an historian and possibly work as a museum curator or as a teacher, she said.
Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education serves alternative Organizational Structure 92, which consists of Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro; and Regional School Unit 18, which includes Oakland, Sidney, Belgrade, Rome and China.
Curtis was the 19 graduates who sat on the high school stage Tuesday, wearing black gowns and caps with burgundy-colored tassels. Others who were absent also are receiving diplomas.
Keynote speaker Nancy Hebert, a 1976 graduate of adult education who is retiring this year from teaching at the high school and has taught adult education as well, told the students that they are heroes.
“If these people don’t meet the criteria of a hero, then I don’t know who could,” Hebert said.
One student, she said, is not a native to the United States and English was not her first language, but she overcame obstacles to earn her diploma; another student did not believe at the beginning that he had what it took to get a diploma, but he persevered.
“He dared to dream and he overcame his fears,” Hebert said.
Adult education director Hannah Bard said before the ceremony that she was impressed by how excited graduates were this year. Sometimes it’s difficult to get students to come to graduation, but many wanted to, she said.
“This year, all the graduates are so excited to be here and all of them have worked so hard and showed incredible resilience to the factors that brought them to us.”
The youngest graduate is 17; the oldest, 63, Bard said. She told the crowd Tuesday that the students are from all walks of life.
“Earning your high school credential is a major milestone in your life, one that 30 million American adults have yet to attain,” Bard told graduates. “New doors will open for you, but no one will pull you and push you through the doors. It is up to you to take control and walk through the threshold to new opportunities as they are presented to you. You have proven to yourself, your families and everyone that you are capable and you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Tyler Soule, 22, of Waterville, paced around in a classroom with other students before they headed into the auditorium Tuesday. He said he dropped out of high school in his junior year because he didn’t feel like going to school. He did odd jobs such as baby-sitting and working at McDonald’s before he finally decided to go back to earn a diploma.
“I just wanted to get my GED so I could go on to higher education,” he said. “I just felt it was time. My highest grade was in language arts, so I’d like to do something along those lines,” he said, adding that he wants to go to college.
He said he was nervous about going back to school, but his fears were allayed when he started classes.
“I met everybody and everybody was nice and easy to deal with,” he said. “It’s not bad at all.”
Raymond, who teaches mathematics, keyboarding and computer science in addition to English, said she was proud of the students.
“They work very hard,” she said. “They come from incredible circumstances and they surge through; and even when they quit, they come back and they get it. Earning that high school diploma is a big deal — it just is. There’s something about it they feel so good about having done it.”
Student emcee Tinecha Hallee welcomed the crowd and introduced speakers, and Randall Rodrigue sang “Million Reasons,” by Lady Gaga.
Rosalia Adametz could not give a student address in person, as she had other obligations, but she appeared via video to tell her story of earning her diploma. Student Robert Preble was to give an address but was feeling ill and could not attend, according to officials.
Alternative Organizational Structure 92 Superintendent Eric Haley and Regional School Unit 18 Superintendent Gary Smith presented diplomas, and Jeff Mosher orchestrated the processional and recessional music.
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Posted by Shelley McGowan on May 31, 2017
Pictured from left to right Tom Nash, Kaye Sharbono, Sharon Bonney,
Secretary Betsy DeVos, Reecie Stagnolia, and Patricia Tyler.
ADULT EDUCATION LEADERS WORKING TO INCREASE CAREER READINESS FOR AMERICA'S ADULTS MEET WITH NEW EDUCATION SECRETARY AND CONGRESS TO SEEK SUPPORT
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- As part of a campaign to improve access to adult education and skills programs that dramatically increase job opportunities, leaders of two major adult education organizations met this week with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and more than 80 members of Congress and staff. Tens of millions of adults in America can't read or compute simple math. They are often unable to find work or qualify for job training programs.
According to officials from the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE), Secretary DeVos told the leaders she is committed to strengthening adult college and career readiness and is eager to find innovative and high-tech solutions to help. The meetings came as COABE members, joined by various adult education state directors, fanned out across Washington for the spring Capitol Hill Day.
The two organizations, which represent more than 55,000 adult education teachers and administrators, recently launched the national Educate & Elevate campaign to raise awareness about and ensure funding critical to support adult education programs nationwide.
The United States consistently scores below the international average in literacy, numeracy, and modern problem-solving, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. One in six adults in the U.S. lacks basic reading skills and cannot read a job application, understand basic written instructions, or navigate the Internet. Two out of every six adults in the U.S. cannot understand basic numbers, like working a cash register or understanding a transit schedule, as COABE and NCSDAE leaders pointed out.
"The Secretary assured us she is very interested in finding innovations and new technologies to help the 36 million adults in America who can't read job ads or qualify for job-training programs," said COABE's president Tom Nash Director of Adult Education for RSU #14 - Windham Raymond School District in Windham, Maine. "We thank the Secretary for her interest and look forward to working with her and the Department of Education." A goal of the Trump administration is to provide more job opportunities for American workers, therefore the leaders discussed the need to prepare more adults to fill current and newly created job openings at all levels. Adults with a high school diploma or equivalency certificate are more likely than those without to work full time, earn an average of $30,000 a year or more, and are better able to lift themselves above the family poverty line.
"It's time that we move beyond the concept of 'leave no child behind.' Today we need everyone pulling together so that adults, too, can move ahead with the skills they need to find and get good jobs, support families, and minimize strain on social and legal services in our communities nationwide," Sharon Bonney, COABE's executive director added.
Federal and state funds support the majority of adult education programs. These funds have served approximately 1.5 million adults a year of the 36 million adult Americans in need. Budget decisions are pending for appropriations to support the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This act was overwhelmingly approved by Congress in 2014 to transform the nation's adult education system.
"The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a game changer that will transform our work in preparing students to compete in today's workforce," said Reecie Stagnolia, incoming chair of the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) and vice president for adult education, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. "Adult education is a wise investment in America's future that will yield a significant return. Improving the educational attainment of our adults prepares them for successful transition to college and careers and is an economic catalyst for global competitiveness."
Nationwide, many potential students languish on waiting lists, some can't afford transportation to get to distant classes, and some without child care are unable to attend night or weekend classes. Secretary DeVos, COABE, and NCSDAE leaders pledged to look for strategies to connect with more adult students through innovative technologies and informational campaigns.
Following the meeting, the leaders expressed confidence that Secretary DeVos would consider adult education a priority in her policy agenda. "It was truly an honor to meet with Secretary DeVos and discuss the critical role our nation's adult education system plays in increasing the education and skills of our adult population," said Stagnolia.
Other leaders at the meeting included Kaye Sharbono, COABE's incoming president and adult education leader in Louisiana, and Patricia Tyler, executive director of NCSDAE. The hour-long session concluded a successful day of meetings with more than 80 Congressional members and staff.
For more information contact Sharon Bonney at info@COABE.org or 888-44-COABE.
COABE and the NCSDAE are engaged in a joint public policy/advocacy
initiative which is generously underwritten by
Coalition on Adult Basic Education, PO Box 620, Syracuse, NY 13026
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