Ginny Shorette, left, and Angie Harrell speak about graduating from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education program Tuesday. Both women overcame challenges to graduate. Staff photo by David Leaming
WATERVILLE — Ginny Shorette and Angie Harrell are living proof that it is possible to overcome life challenges and succeed, even when you think you can not.
The women, 20 and 36, respectively, will graduate Tuesday night from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education after having dropped out of school when they were younger, enrolled in adult education courses, worked hard and persevered.
“I’m so proud and relieved,” Shorette said. “I’ve got a lot of family coming. They’re all really supportive and excited. They’ve got all kinds of things planned for me.”
English teacher Paula Raymond also is proud.
“These were a couple of young women whose lives and luck just were never there for them,” Raymond said. “They gave our program a last ditch effort so to speak. Both worked hard over these past few years.”
Graduation ceremonies will be at 7 p.m. in Trask Auditorium at Waterville Senior High School.
Shorette, of Oakland, dropped out of Messalonskee High School when she was a sophomore. She just couldn’t seem to make it in traditional classes, was not grasping information the way other students did and continued to fall behind. She struggled with depression and anxiety, which contributed to her difficulties.
When she enrolled in adult education, it became clear she had an ability to learn, but in a different way than in a traditional classroom. She spent time one-on-one with teachers and counselors who helped her learn how to organize, and she focused on the diploma she so earnestly wanted. She got professional help to work through her issues with depression and anxiety, got a job in a fast-food restaurant and eventually was promoted from a crew member to a swing manager.
“I was in there working one day and the owner came in and was walking around and I guess he noticed me working and talked to my general manager and I was promoted,” Shorette said. “I got a raise. I’m still getting raises the more I do.”
The more she accomplished over the last two years in both school and work, the more confident she became. She is in the process of doing paperwork to enroll in college to study phlebotomy and hopes to become a nurse one day.
“I never thought I was going to do it, and it wasn’t that I didn’t want my education. It was that I couldn’t pull myself out of what was happening around me in my life,” she said.
The staff at Mid-Maine adult ed, including Raymond, who also teaches courses other than English, and history-government teacher Ken Gagnon, who sat with her and spent time with her, made the difference, she said.
Unlike Shorette, Harrell did not have a supportive family. In fact, it was the opposite.
In 2010, she moved to Maine from Washington state after growing up in a family that did not value education and whose members were addicted to drugs, she said. Her family moved back and forth from Florida to Washington frequently, and hers was a precarious upbringing, surrounded by drugs, partying, violence and crime, she said.
She had three children and lost them to the state because of her own issues with addiction. When she got pregnant for the fourth time, she decided she needed to get far, far away from drugs and raise her child in a healthful environment.
When she came to Maine, she went to the New Hope Shelter in Solon and connected with a woman she now calls her “god-mom.”
That woman convinced Harrell that the only way to get off welfare is to get an education, so she enrolled in adult ed and has taken courses for four years. Harrell said she also developed a faith in God that has helped her to become stronger and change the way she relates to the world. Because of help from her godmother, her church, her son, who is 6, and the staff at Mid-Maine Adult Ed, she will graduate Tuesday and hopes to enroll in college and get a job, possibly doing alcohol and drug counseling.
“You want to show your kid that they can do it, and I don’t want my son to drop out of school,” she said.
Like Shorette, Harrell said instructors, including Raymond and Gagnon, took the time to understand how she learns and how best to help ensure her success. She also learned that focusing on work and sticking with it were critical.
“Once you lose that groove, that’s it,” Harrell said. “You have to push through it no matter what you’re going through.”
Harrell, of Waterville, said she will be the first person in her family to get a diploma out of prison, and she worries that it may be difficult to get a job because of her background.
“I should have been dead 50 times over — I know it,” she said. “Once I rose above that, I know that I am worth a lot more than I was told all my life.”
Both Shorette and Harrell encourage others who want to purse an education but are afraid to, to just do it.
“Push through it. Don’t let the fear keep you back,” Shorette said. “If you let it hold you back for that, it’ll hold you back from other things.”
Harrell said she was the “queen of excuses” for why she could not continue something, but once she made up her mind to go on, she kept on going.
“People can do a lot more than they think they can,” she said.
Meanwhile, Raymond said Shorette and Harrell worked very hard, and she is excited to be able to see them graduate Tuesday.
“They took many a deep breaths, and they were willing to trust those of us who were advocating for them,” Raymond said. “They both can lift their heads up high and walk proud into their future endeavors.”
Hannah Bard, director of Mid-Maine adult ed, said 35 men and women will graduate this spring and 12 will march in ceremonies Tuesday night. Nine will graduate with high school diplomas and 26 will receive HiSET, or high school equivalency certificates. The HiSET is one of three high school equivalency tests in the nation and is used in seven states, according to Bard.
She said she can not say enough about how impressive this year’s group of graduates is.
“Each one of them has worked incredibly hard to be graduating on Tuesday evening, facing challenges that would have halted others,” Bard said. “They had to make uncomfortable choices to change their lives for the better. One of the best things about this group of graduates is that I know Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education is not their last step, but rather their first step to new journeys.”
Amy Calder — 861-9247
Posted by Shelley McGowan on May 30, 2016